Cal Lutheran to offer public health minor

Program will help meet needs of diverse communities

“The U.S. health care system is under-resourced, especially with regard to serving increasingly diverse populations like California and counties like Ventura,” said Adina Nack, a medical sociologist and professor who led the committee that proposed the new program.

Photo: Brian Stethem

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Nov. 13, 2020) California Lutheran University is launching a minor in public health to help fill the growing need for professionals skilled at promoting well-being, particularly in diverse communities. The interdisciplinary program for traditional undergraduate students will begin in January. 

In addition to taking public health courses, students can choose from electives including Environmental Law and Policy, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Substance Abuse, Statistics for the Sciences, and Persuasive Communication. Students will examine public health concepts, problems and solutions in depth. They will learn to analyze public health data, to understand the impact of policies on well-being, and to effectively engage with different communities to promote public health.  

A 2014 National Institutes of Health report stressed the importance of social determinants of health such as education, housing quality and access to healthy foods in addressing health care disparities. The report also says increasing the diversity and cultural competency of the health care workforce is necessary to address the fact that racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. are at a higher risk of lacking insurance and access to care and experiencing worse health outcomes from preventable and treatable conditions. 

As a Hispanic-Serving Institution where 38% of traditional undergraduates are Latino, Cal Lutheran can help meet the growing national need for public health departments to provide culturally relevant education, prevention, outreach and health care services in areas where Latinos make up a growing percentage of the population.

“The U.S. health care system is under-resourced, especially with regard to serving increasingly diverse populations like California and counties like Ventura,” said Adina Nack, a medical sociologist and professor who led the committee that proposed the new program.

The minor will pair well with majors in biology, chemistry, environmental science, communication, psychology and sociology. It will better position students to enter medical and nursing schools, physical-therapy and physician-assistant training programs and graduate programs focused on public health research. Employment in health care occupations is projected to grow 15% from 2019 to 2029, adding about 2.4 million new jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This year, the pandemic highlighted the need for public health workers to help keep people safe.

“We began planning this new program before COVID-19, but the pandemic underscores the importance of preparing students to work in this critical field,” said Jessica Lavariega Monforti, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. 

For more information, contact Nack at nack@callutheran.edu.

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