Students at West Virginia University will have a new option starting next spring – an undergraduate program aimed at launching them into careers in public health. A new Bachelor of Science program was approved June 5 by the Board of Governors.

“Establishing a bachelor’s program is the next step in providing a fundamental resource for understanding and facing the public health challenges in West Virginia and the 13 states of the Appalachian mountain region of the United States,” said Gregory A. Hand, Ph.D., M.P.H., dean of the School of Public Health.

“Those interested in making a positive difference in entire communities and populations begin as students of public health. The need for a growing public health workforce and trained leadership in the profession is a priority addressed in our mission as the only School of Public Health in the State.”

The public health major is one of the nation’s fastest growing in undergraduate education and covers the five core public health disciplines: biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health policy and management, and social and behavioral sciences. The degree in public health emphasizes problem solving skills, critical thinking and practical application with an emphasis on real-world solutions to the health challenges of the 21st century.

Early in the multi-disciplinary program, students will build a strong foundation in natural and social sciences while becoming familiar with cultural and socioeconomic differences among populations. More advanced study will provide students with knowledge, skills and abilities needed to identify evidence-based techniques for disease prevention and promotion of health, both at home and from a global perspective.

“Students will come out of the program with a broad set of skills and knowledge and a foundation in public health principles,” said Janet Hunt, M.P.H., assistant dean for program development and operations. “The courses are designed to address current public health issues faced by communities throughout the state, nation and world.”

The School currently offers master and doctoral degrees in public health and master of science degrees in school health education and biostatistics.

“The undergraduate students will bring a new dynamic to our school,” Hunt added. “Our aim is to create an experience in which undergraduates feel connected and valued throughout the program and where they can connect with others who are passionate about public health.”

Applications will be open Wednesday, July 1, for 2016 spring and fall semesters. For more information about the program, contact Hunt at publichealthUG@hsc.wvu.edu or 304-293-2502.