Graduates would help address health disparities in W.Va.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia has historically been ranked at the bottom of the lists that measure health, whether it’s obesity, heart disease, diabetes, tobacco and drug abuse or any of dozens of other such indicators. West Virginia University is planning to establish a new School of Public Health to help solve the state’s health problems.

“This is a bold goal, and I’m pleased to say it has the full support and endorsement of the Health Sciences and University leadership and key statewide constituents and stakeholders,” Chancellor for Health Sciences Christopher Colenda, M.D., M.P.H., said.  “The time is right to take this step; we already have in place about 80 percent of the faculty and other requirements we would need for a nationally accredited school here.”

Some public health programs already exist in the WVU School of Medicine, and enrollment has been increasing rapidly. The Master’s of Public Health (M.P.H.) program has doubled enrollment since 2008. WVU also offers a master’s degree in school health education and a Ph.D. program in public health sciences.  Several community-based health programs developed at WVU are having national and international impact.

Dr. Colenda said an independent fully accredited school would allow the programs to expand to attract the best faculty and students.  He said it would increase research investment, which is key to developing effective solutions to the state’s persistent health issues.

The establishment of the new school is part of the Strategic Plan for the University, which includes this goal: “Enhance the wellbeing and the quality of life for the people of West Virginia.”

“We have been transforming lives in this state for more than 50 years, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Colenda said. “The new WVU School of Public Health will have a positive impact on the future for generations of West Virginians.”

Studies show the current public health workforce in the state is aging rapidly toward retirement, and there would be many career opportunities for graduates. They may choose to work in various fields that include health services administration, biostatistics, epidemiology, health education, environmental health and international health.

Creation of the WVU School of Public Health requires approval from the WVU Board of Governors and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Committee.

For more information about current public health offerings at WVU Health Sciences, go to

For more information: Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
alj: 01-18-11