Thursday, September 27, 2012

Consider Public Health at Carolina

Charletta Sims Evans, assistant dean for student affairs at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, talks about public health and the opportunities available to those who decide to major in it.

Charletta, what’s a good working definition of ‘public health’? 
Public health is everywhere. It’s about protecting and improving the health of communities through health education, promotion of healthy lifestyle, and disease and injury prevention. Unlike medicine, which addresses problems as they occur and diagnoses individual problems, public health focuses on improving the health of populations through prevention.

Students can pursue several different areas of public health here at UNC, including biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, health behavior, health policy and management, maternal and child health and nutrition.

What types of careers do students find themselves in after graduation?
They go into all sorts of different careers. They work in a variety of sectors from non-profits, commercial firms and pharmaceutical companies to hospitals and health care organizations, university research settings, government and consulting. A large number of them also pursue graduate work in public health.

What are some examples of public health initiatives students might know about?
Often when I’m talking with students about public health, I’ll ask them to think of what they see or read in the media on a daily basis. So much in the news relates to public health problems and potential solutions. Does your local drug store offer flu vaccinations? We have folks who can give you data about why the vaccination is a good idea. Did you read about the drought in the southwestern U.S.? Our environmental sciences and engineering researchers can tell you about water scarcity and climate change. What do you think of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program? Our nutrition department knows all about why eating healthful foods and exercising regularly are important.

What is the one thing you'd like students to know about the programs or undergraduate experience at the Gillings School of Global Public Health?
Our school ranks as the top public school of public health in the country and is in second place among all public health schools (U.S. News & World Reports, 2012). Undergraduates are given opportunities to help with research and often are taught by and interact with professors who are renowned experts across many public health disciplines including cancer, global health, health disparities, and obesity and water safety, among others.

Our students also love to volunteer. They are very active on campus and in the community. Through their experiences here, they are able to gain fabulous skill sets and are more than qualified when they leave UNC to make a real difference in public health. Many join the Peace Corps or Teach for America, or enter competitive graduate programs.

Learn more about public health at Carolina.