Greater Awareness of HIV/AIDS, Other Global Health Issues Attributed to the Growth in Public Health Students, Washington Post Reports
The Washington Post on Friday examined the "record numbers" of undergraduate college students who are taking classes in epidemiology, global health and public health, driven in part by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and a motivation to contribute to the field.
According to a recent survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 16% of its member colleges now offer a public health major or minor and most students are required to complete fieldwork or research. The association has offered courses during the summer for the past two years to 63 schools who are interested in adding a public health major. Many universities with existing programs have accommodated the demand by students for courses in epidemiology, public health and global health by adding more sections of these courses.
Challenges posed by the HIV/AIDS pandemic have helped increased awareness of inequities in public health around the world, according to Thomas Coates, head of the global health program at the University of California-Los Angeles. According to the Post, the HIV/AIDS pandemic provided a "dramatic example" of the key epidemiological concept that not just individuals but entire populations can be at risk of a disease. The bolstered interest in public health "would not have happened without HIV/AIDS," Coates said, adding, "It took something like HIV/AIDS -- because it is so lethal and now that it is so treatable -- to capture our attention and make us realize there were such inequities in the world."
In addition, global health is a "huge growth industry," the Post reports. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief received more than $15 billion over the past five years, billions in private spending on public health spending have been earmarked from well-known figures like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and a new campaign recently has been launched to eradicate malaria. With global health news more accessible on the Internet, students are more tuned-in to global issues, increasing their desire to be more active in the field, according to some experts.
"This is a student-driven movement," Richard Riegelman, an epidemiologist and spokesperson for the Educated Citizen and Public Health Initiative, said, adding, "The drive is not just intellectual, it is passionate as well." Kelly Gebo, director of the public health major at Johns Hopkins University, said students are more proactive in addressing global health issues and not limited to simply sending money to help with global health crises (Brown, Washington Post, 9/19).