Bridging the distances: Public health education at your fingertips
A map of the world showing the reach of SPH’s Centers for Public Health Education and Outreach (CPHEO) is scattered with dots of varying sizes representing the number of people from each part of the globe who have taken advantage of the centers’ courses and programs. In the nearly 12 years since it has been offering classes to the global public health community, CPHEO has grown from serving 1,483 learners in 2000 to serving more than 46,500 in 2011, with the vast majority (90 percent) getting their education online.
CPHEO offers students the chance to gain more knowledge about certain aspects of public health and earn continuing education credits. NGOs (non- governmental organizations) use CPHEO classes to keep their employees up to date on the latest public health issues, as well as to conduct orientation or refresher training on basic public health concepts. CPHEO helps support growing academic programs, such as the Online Executive Program in Public Health Practice and the online program in Maternal and Child Health.
REACHING STUDENTS WHERE THEY ARE
One of the centers’ great advantages is the accessibility of its programming. Nearly a third of the world’s seven billion people have internet access and CPHEO can reach them—and has—in Armenia, Botswana, Australia, and many other countries.
Stanley Blanco lives in La Paz, Bolivia, and is in charge of USAID-funded community health projects in that country. He has an MD and MPH. Two years ago, he was appointed as an assistant mission disaster relief officer.
“I recognized that I needed immediate training on emergencies, risk reduction, and disaster management, so, searching the web looking for reliable universities and courses, I found CPHEO,” says Blanco. For people like Blanco who have limited time, CPHEO’s online courses offer a convenient way to learn. For other students, the classes fill a vital need for the advanced public health training that their countries are lacking.
Anna Guo works for 3M in Shanghai province, China, and manages registered nurses at eight manufacturing sites. She has a bachelor’s degree in prevention medicine and an advanced nursing diploma. Because Chinese schools of public health cannot offer ade- quate advanced training, she says, her U.S. colleagues recommended CPHEO online classes for her career development.
What’s missing for Guo in her online studies is “schoolmates to exchange learning experiences with.” SPH supplements the online learning available for students via CPHEO with the annual three-week intensive Public Health Institute (PHI) on the Twin Cities campus, which Guo hopes to attend one day. Over the years, SPH has also taken a program modeled on PHI—the Global Health Institute—to places such as Iceland, India, Vietnam, Thailand, and Uganda to address the growing need for coordinated and innovative global public health training.
Offering classes online and at little cost is a rapidly growing phenomenon, and universities across the country are clambering to get on board. CPHEO has more than a decade-old history in delivering first-rate, consistent, and current content to computer screens—and increasingly, mobile phones—all over the world.
ILLUSTRATION BY OLAF HAJEK