Course Selections - 2016

Mental/Behavioral Health

Mental illness is a term that refers to a group of mental disorders that cause individuals severe disturbances in thinking, feeling and relating.  This often results in a substantially diminished capacity to cope with the ordinary demands of life.  Mental illness can affect persons of any age and social strata – and can occur in any family.  Several million people in this country suffer from a serious, long-term mental illness, and they occupy more hospital beds than persons with any other illness.  The cost to society is high due to lost productivity and treatment expense.

Mental illness is a significant public health problem.  The lifetime prevalence of diagnosable mental illness is 20% (one if five of us will suffer from a diagnosable mental illness sometime in our lives) and one in four families will be directly affected.

The mental health concentration course presents mental illness/mental health from a public health perspective in which the biological, social and psychological components and sequelae are discussed.  The effects of the illness on the individual, the family and society, prevention and intervention strategies will be presented via case studies and presentations by consumers (patients), family members and professionals.  Site visits to mental health treatment facilities are incorporated to provide the students with the opportunity to observe the treatment/rehabilitative process.

Descriptions of the many professionals that are involved in the ideal treatment system are presented in the context of the ever-changing health care environment.  Special topics are presented to give the students an understanding of the individual assessment and treatment process as well as the system issues that dictate and affect care.

Topics to be covered include, but are not limited to: a bio-psycho-social perspective of the definition of mental illness, the stigma of mental illness, consumer and family empowerment/involvement, attention deficit disorder, affective disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, substance abuse, forensic sciences, and community-based services.  The overriding philosophy of the course is that individuals with mental illness and children and adolescents with serious behavior problems can be helped and should be involved in their treatment/rehabilitation.  Services should be individually based, family centered and culturally sensitive.

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Public Health

The question is often asked, “What is Public Health?”  Whereas medical doctors focus on individual patients, public health practitioners focus on the general health of different populations – ranging in size from a handful of people to entire continents.   It is a holistic discipline in that it is comprised of several specialties including: epidemiology, infectious disease and microbiology, bio-statistics, social and behavioral health, occupational health and health management and policy.

Public health problems are dynamic and influenced by many factors such as human interaction with an ever-changing environment, poverty, gender, race or changes in technology to name a few.  Approaches to understanding human disease are varied and often include trying to understand the interplay between human behavior, the environment and an infectious agent.  Thus, public health strategies must be designed to help populations cope not only with changing infectious diseases, but as well as with varying socioeconomic and cultural needs.

The concentration course in Public Health will feature visiting speakers who work in different areas of public health and who will provide glimpses into the types of projects that public health practitioners are interested in.  These projects will vary from basic studies of microorganisms at a molecular level to clinical studies of patients and populations.  There will also be site visits to various public health venues.

This course will identify an array of public health problems involving infectious agents such as HIV, as well as environmental and socioeconomic problems.  It will also include discussion of complex problems such as the influence of violence and gender on health.  The public health approach involving multidisciplinary action will be emphasized.

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Geriatrics

In the United States, people are living longer than ever before.  While birth rates are declining, both the absolute and relative numbers of elderly are steadily increasing.  The older population--persons 65 years or older--numbered 39.6 million in 2009. They represented 12.9% of the U.S. population, over one in every eight Americans.  The population 65 and over increased from 35 million in 2000 to 40 million in 2010 (a 15% increase).   In the year 2020, the population 65 years and over will increase to 55 million (a 36% increase for that decade).  Currently, healthcare practitioners are spending 70% of their time caring for an older adult across all settings. 

Given the projected increases in the number of older persons and their specific needs related to both normal and pathological aging, it is reasonable to predict that there will be a need for many more well educated and trained health care professionals to provide geriatric health care and rehabilitative services.  Aging in the United States is accompanied by profound social, psychological, and physiological changes.  Without a thorough understanding of such changes, health care professionals caring for older patients may not be providing the most effective medical interventions.  Additionally, an understanding of the complex interactions between patients, their environments, and caregivers must be included in the formulation of proper medical and social treatment plans.  Given the current and future population trends, it is essential that geriatrics be incorporated into the education and training of all health care providers.

This concentration course will provide insight into unique aspects of medicine and health care that are critical in promoting health to the older patient, and in providing appropriate care to address the unique needs of older adults.  A variety of discipline specific experts in geriatrics will discuss factors related to prevention, diagnosis, care and treatment of older adults.  The sessions will demonstrate that an interdisciplinary team approach in the provision of health care to older adults is the most effective approach in meeting their needs.  This course will include lectures, clinical demonstrations, discussions, site visits, case presentations, and independent readings.

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Global Health

Global health refers to health issues that transcend national boundaries.  It’s a field that currently faces unprecedented challenges brought on by issues such as an aging population, shifting immigration patterns, climate change, conflict, and global commerce.  As with public health, global health professionals focus on populations rather than on individuals and emphasize prevention rather than treatment. They address global health issues from multidisciplinary perspectives and often work in partnership with local collaborators and organizations such as the World Health Organization, United Nations Development Program, World Bank, and Save the Children.  Professionals in this field must consider social, economic, political, cultural, and other factors when developing strategies to address global health challenges.

The concentration course in global health will feature speakers who work to address various global health issues domestically and abroad.  Topics will include, but are not limited to:  maternal and child health, infectious diseases, aging, and the increasing global burden of chronic diseases such as diabetes and mental illness.  Cross-cutting issues such as culture, ethics, education, and economics will also be discussed.

Students will have an opportunity to meet and interact with faculty and graduate students who are preparing for careers in global health.  There will also be site visits to local organizations that are involved in various aspects of global health. 

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