Disability within US Public Health School and Program Curricula

Share with Your Friends
Students learning from Instructor

Only half of the U.S public health schools offer courses with disability content. What can be done?

Social_round_facebook Social_round_twitter Email_02

The Journal of Public Health Management and Practice published a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Disability within US Public Health School and Program Curricula. According to this study, only half of the U.S public health schools and programs offer courses with disability content. Lack of disability-specific training and education for much of the public health workforce could have serious implications for the health of 56.7 million[1] people living with disabilities in the United States.

Over the last two decades there has been abundant evidence that people with disabilities can be as healthy, active, and engaged in their communities as anyone else. However, compared to people without disabilities, people with disabilities are at a higher risk for poor health outcomes, such a hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, fall-related injuries and depression.[2],[3]A well-trained public health workforce with knowledge and skills to work with people with disabilities can help make sure that everybody, with and without disabilities, will have access to services and programs they need to live healthy and productive lives.

In an effort to determine the number of public health schools and programs offering training needed to provide public health services that people with disabilities can access, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health asked accredited public health schools and programs about disability content taught within their courses. Out of 78 schools that responded, only 39 (50%) of them offered some disability content within their Master of Public Health curricula. Knowing now that this training is lacking in many public health schools and programs is important information that administrators and credentialing agencies can use to create a more balanced curriculum that includes disability and health training opportunities. Potential resources to do so are presented in the article.

Read an abstract of the article, Disability within U.S. public health school and program curriculaExternal.

As of spring 2011, there were a total of 122 master of public health (MPH)–granting public health schools (n = 49) and programs (n = 73) located within the United States and territories, accredited and listed with the Council on Education for Public Health. Information about currently accredited public health schools and programs can be found at http://ceph.org/accredited/External

Main Findings

  • Fifty percent of public health schools and programs offered some disability content within their graduate-level courses.
  • The percentage of schools that offer disability coursework has not changed in the last 12 years.

About This Study

  • The availability of disability and health training in public health schools and programs and efforts to accomplish this type of training have not previously been well-described.
  • Researchers contacted 122 administrators of public health schools and programs and asked them about the course content required for a Master in Public Health degree.
  • Questions asked were derived from a similar study conducted in 1999.[4]

What Can Be Done?

As shown in the study, future public health professionals have few opportunities to learn about disability in public health schools and programs. To address the deficiency, schools and programs should plan to include disability content in public health curricula using national goals, accreditation language, and published materials. Here are some resources that administrators can use to develop and implement disability coursework in graduate public health schools and programs:

The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, Association for Prevention Teaching and Research, and The Association of Accredited Public Health Programs are possible resources to help identify experts among their membership who can teach public health disability course content.

CDC’s Activities

CDC works with partner organizations to promote healthy lifestyles and improve quality of life for all people with disabilities. CDC monitors the health of people with and without disabilities. CDC supports the inclusion of people with disabilities in public health programs that

  • Prevent disease,
  • Promote healthy behaviors,
  • Eliminate barriers to health care, and
  • Improve access to routine preventive services.

More Information

To learn more about Disability and Health, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/index.html

To learn more about the Massachusetts Disability and Health Program, please visit: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/admin/health-equity/health-and-disability-program.htmlExternal or https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/programs.html

To learn more about the health status of people with disabilities, please visit http://dhds.cdc.gov/

To learn more about the American Association of Public Health Programs (AAPHPS), please visit http://aaphps.org/External

To learn more about the Association for Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), please visit www.aspph.org/External

To learn more about accredited public health schools and programs, please visit http://www.ceph.orgExternal

References

1. Brault MW. Americans With Disabilities: 2010. Current Population Reports P70-131. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau; 2012.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DATA2010: The Healthy People 2010 Database. Hyattsville, MD: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2010. http://wonder.cdc.gov/data2010/focus.htm.

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Disability and Health Data System (DHDS). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2012. http://dhds.cdc.gov.

4. Tanenhaus RH, Meyers AR & Harbison LA. Disability and the curriculum in US graduate schools of public health. Am J Pub Health. 2000;90(8):1315−1316.

Sinclair LB, Tanenhaus RH, Courtney-Long E, Eaton DK. Disability within U.S. public health school and program curricula. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2015; 21(3): 400-405.