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Release: Immediate

UI to ask Regents to approve public health initiative

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa will ask the Iowa Board of Regents to approve a Public Health Initiative when the Regents meet next Wednesday in Ames. The cornerstone of the initiative is the establishment of a School of Public Health within the UI College of Medicine.

The Public Health Initiative will build upon the resources of the existing department of preventive medicine and environmental health in the College of Medicine. The UI will likely ask the Regents to approve at some future date a new Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, which is recognized as the primary professional degree in public health.

"We feel very strongly that the Public Health Initiative, leading to the establishment of a School of Public Health, is an important step toward improving the health of all Iowans," said Robert P. Kelch, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine. "It will have a major impact on the health of Iowa's children and on our senior citizens."

The MPH program, which has been unanimously approved by the UI Graduate Council and by UI Provost Jon Whitmore, would be the only one in Iowa. In its proposal to the Regents, the UI says a survey of the 99 county and regional public health units indicated a clear need for the program. Before the request for the degree program is presented to the Regents, it must be approved by the UI graduate faculty, to whom it will be submitted in September.

The MPH degree is highly sought-after by physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and health administrators who work in public health settings. Under the proposal, the degree would be offered both on campus and via the Iowa Communications Network. The degree would enable health care professionals to earn the degree within the state, rather than having to pursue it at such places as the University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota and the University of Illinois-Chicago.

The proposal indicates that the establishment of the School of Public Health would require $6.5 million in new resources over five years to recruit faculty and staff and to develop the additional educational programs needed for accreditation.

The UI is asking the Regents to approve a special purpose appropriation of $1.85 million for FY 2000 for the Public Health Initiative. Of that, $1.5 million would be used to recruit faculty and develop curriculum for the School of Public Health, and $350,000 will be targeted for a part of the Public Health Initiative called Health and Independence of Elderly Iowans. Additional state and university commitments would be required in future years to meet the budget of the school.