Public health: Keeping communities safe

BGSU-MPH graduates serve in wide variety of fields

public-health

By Julie Carle

Issues related to public health dominate the news these days, as evidenced by headlines that address childhood and adult obesity; air, water and food safety; infant mortality rates; how health care dollars are spent, prevention, resource rationing for the aging population and the health and safety of work, recreational and personal environments.

Public health careers are not about treating one person at a time. Instead, individuals who choose to work in the public health sector may find themselves dealing with everything from restaurant report cards and nutrition programs for infants to bioterrorism and flu epidemics. The bottom line: public health jobs are all about keeping communities safe.

The Bowling Green State University Master of Public Health degree program, which is part of the Northwest Ohio Consortium for Public Health with the University of Toledo, prepares graduates for careers in environmental and occupational health and safety, health promotion and education, public health administration, public health epidemiology and public health nutrition. The common thread in each of these career paths is that the graduates desire to make a difference by enhancing public health locally, regionally, nationally or internationally.

“To see other people with so little is inspiring for the rest of us to do as much as we can"Recent graduate Todd Platzer said the program provided an excellent foundation for him, after a circuitous route in his life journey. After earning a bachelor’s degree in business management and entrepreneurship at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, he taught English in Spain, traveled to India and Bangladesh, and collected teaching specimens from a Grenada slaughterhouse to assist a veterinarian at St. George’s University. During those experiences he saw for the first time the effect poverty has on children and families, which led him to pursue the master’s degree in public health.

“I saw crippled children begging for pennies and living in broken shacks by train tracks. Many health needs are unmet and lots of suffering happens because of poor distribution of health services, all because of poverty,” Platzer said.

“To see other people with so little is inspiring for the rest of us to do as much as we can,” he said.

When looking to enroll in a master’s-level public health program, Platzer talked with Dr. L. Fleming Fallon, Distinguished Teaching Professor in public health and co-director of the Northwest Consortium for Ohio Public Health. Fallon convinced Platzer the program was a good fit for him and his interest in public health.

Platzer found the 15-course program provided an exceptional foundation for his pursuit into the public health industry.  The evening and weekend classes, which allow working professionals to pursue the MPH degree, were conducive for his schedule.

The evening class schedule allowed him to intern with the BGSU Office of Human Resources and to work with Findley Davies, a human resources consulting firm.  As a graduate assistant to Dr. Hans Schmalzried, chair of the BGSU Department of Public and Allied Health, Platzer also was involved with a vision care program for Lucas County school children. Schmalzried and Dr. Barbara Gunning at the Toledo/Lucas County Health Department worked with Platzer to submit a manuscript about the Toledo Public School’s School-based vision program for the Journal of School Health. The submitted paper is intended to serve as a model for other cities or regions to emulate the program that reduces the barriers to vision care access.

“My work was focused on unmet vision needs of children in the county,” he explained. “As many as 50 percent of urban youth are affected by some kind of vision problem that negatively impacts their academic performance and self esteem.”

Other benefits to the program include the degree conferred jointly by BGSU and UT, convenient class locations at BGSU Levis Commons and Main Campus, and UT’s Health Science and Main Campuses. There are also several online courses available to offer additional flexibility for students. Students are admitted to the program in all semesters, including summer.

The MPH program also has helped several individuals advance their public health careers.   Health commissioners from seven county health departments in the area completed the degree as well and are leading public health initiatives in their counties.

The program is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health. For more information visit: www.nocph.org