HOT OFF THE PRESSES!
Just a few hours ago, the Graduate School Committee unanimously approved our proposal for two dual-degree programs (MA/MPH and MPH/PhD) in Biocultural Health Promotion. These programs will be available as of Spring 2020.
Need & Rationale for Dual Degree Programs
Current knowledge and practice affirm that health is a multi-dimensional phenomenon with a variety of determinants. Public health researchers and anthropologists have traditionally studied population health issues from within their respective disciplinary silos. While the siloed approach has enjoyed some success, the current consensus is that combining methods and theories from both disciplines will expand the reach and efficacy of either approach in benefiting population health.
Anthropology is concerned with human beings and their biological and cultural diversity in context. This means that anthropologists develop expertise with particular locations and groups. We continuously seek to improve in the processes necessary for successful engagement with communities: gaining entree, archival and on-the-ground fact-finding, relationship-building, and contextual inquiry and analysis. Practitioners in the sub-field of medical anthropology apply these skills in explorations of health and the biological, material, and sociocultural circumstances that bear on health.
Public health is concerned with population well-being---with patterns of health and disease among groups of people, what influences those patterns, and how those patterns change through action at multiple levels, from individual to policy. Health education and promotion is a sub-specialty in public health. In addition to learning epidemiology and using epidemiological data to document population health trends, health education and promotion specialists are trained in community assessment, intervention planning and design, and program evaluation---tools that are critical to improving, supporting, and sustaining population health.
Public health and anthropology have shared and complementary interests. Anthropologists and public health practitioners collaborate in community-based work, in service delivery, and on policy work in government and non-governmental and/or international organizations. Efforts to combine the knowledge and skill sets of the two disciplines have produced a growing number of formal, combined training programs. These dual-degree programs attract students because they broaden the skill sets and vision of their students and add value to their graduates’ professional endeavors. By combining the disciplinary knowledge and skills of each constituent program, dual training heightens the likelihood that graduates’ efforts to improve population health will be successful.
The Anthropology Department at the University of Alabama is well-known and highly respected for the caliber of its graduate training in biocultural medical anthropology. Program graduates frequently go on to pursue degrees in public health or medicine and cite their studies at UA as integral to their success.
The Capstone launched its master’s degree program in Health Education and Health Promotion in fall 2018. The Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Education & Promotion curriculum equips students with the knowledge, skills, and expertise needed to preserve, promote, and improve the health of individuals, communities, and populations. Its specific focus on health promotion and multi-modal (online, in-class, combined) content delivery make it attractive to and feasible for students, whether they are pursuing a career path in public health or seeking public health training as a compliment to other professional preparation.
Biocultural Health Promotion
Our master’s and doctoral level dual degree programs---an MA/MPH in Biocultural Health Promotion and a PhD/MPH in Biocultural Health Promotion---blend excellent graduate training in biocultural medical anthropology with rigorous, applied preparation in public health education and promotion. We aim to produce graduates versed in the assessment of and engagement with health as a biological, cultural and structural phenomenon, and trained to engage multiple levels of the social ecology of health. Ours will be a value-added curriculum. It will enhance students’ ability to perform as effective members of their respective disciplines and to offer a broad set of knowledge and skills to their future employers and collaborative partners.
The master’s program will be reciprocal from the outset; that is, we welcome public health students who wish to add anthropological training to their repertoire and anthropology students who desire the knowledge and skills attainable through public health training. Initially, our doctoral program will target anthropology doctoral students seeking public health training. However, we anticipate that as the program becomes more established, public health doctoral students will see the benefits of a master’s in anthropology. Witnessing the opportunities in the MA/MPH students training to engage in interprofessional work, to expand their methodological expertise, and to enhance their knowledge of culture and culture theory may attract enrolled or entering public health doctoral students.
For the master’s program, we have created curricular options for thesis and non-thesis students. The planned program duration is 2–3 years, depending on whether students choose the thesis or non-thesis option. Students will be encouraged to pursue their own research interests within a biocultural/health promotion framework.
We anticipate that anthropology doctoral students will complete much of their public health coursework online---taking courses immediately prior to going to the field and while in the field. We expect that public health course work will add a maximum of eighteen months to our doctoral students’ completion timeline.
Applying for the Programs
Applicants will have to apply to each program separately and indicate in the personal statements that they are applying for the dual-degree program. For more information on this and other details that we haven't had time to post to our websites yet, contact Drs. McClure or Lynn in Anthropology or Drs. Paschal, Ross, or Gordon in Health Science.