Public health is the science and practice of improving the health and welfare of the general population by preventing and controlling disease.
From its beginnings in 1712 with the enactment of a quarantine law by the General Assembly of the Province of Carolina, the system of public health delivery in this state has grown to encompass services provided by over 90 different health programs, ranging from the collection of vital statistics to the delivery of prenatal services. North Carolina has been and continues to be among the nation’s leaders in public health. It was one of the first states to establish a state health department, as well as local departments.
DELIVERY OF SERVICES
The delivery of public health services in North Carolina has become a complex process with major emphasis placed on local health departments to deliver patient and community services. There are approximately 8,600 professionals providing public health services in 86 district and local health department settings that cover all 100 counties in North Carolina. Additionally, private physician offices and community health centers also contribute to the provision of traditional public health services.
The challenges of the public health system are wrapped in the diversity of its programs and professional disciplines, and the need to make these function synchronously to deliver the best possible service. The public health field comprises more than 14 disciplines, and education programs cover topics as diverse as nutritional counseling, sewer system testing and dental care.
NC AHEC AND THE UNC GILLINGS SCHOOL OF GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill boasts one of the nation’s preeminent schools of public health. The school has been a leader in the state and has been an important partner of the NC AHEC Program since the program’s inception in 1972. NC AHEC works with local public health departments as well as other community-based health care groups to provide continuing professional development and technical assistance to all of the disciplines involved in public health. Faculty for these programs came from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, from other health science schools, and from local AHEC sources.
EXECUTIVE MASTER’S PROGRAM
This program places emphasis on providing comprehensive, high quality, flexible learning to mid-career professionals. Graduates can earn a Master of Public Health degree (MPH, with a concentration in Management), or a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA, with a concentration in Health Services Management), through the Department of Health Policy and Administration.
The Executive Master’s Program is fully accredited by both the Commission on Education in Public Health (CEPH), and the Accrediting Commission on Education for Health Services Administration (ACEHSA).
The classes are held during the fall and spring in selected AHEC sites, with short visits to UNC in the summers. NC AHEC provides significant assistance including faculty support, travel arrangements, on-site classrooms, library materials, information services, and logistical help.
DISTANCE LEARNING MPH PROGRAM
In order to meet the continuing needs of health professionals to further their education, the School of Public Health initiated the Distance Learning MPH Program. The program in Public Health Leadership is utilizing the technology of the Internet and video conferencing, augmented by brief stays on campus.
In both the North Carolina Executive Master’s and the Distance Learning Programs, students are able to advance professionally while continuing to work and live in their home communities. Education and skills can be immediately applied on the job, benefiting their employing agencies.