Spotlight: AUB’s graduate Public Health program

Hammam M. Antar
Special to Outlook

The Graduate Public Health Program (GPHP) at AUB offers multiple degree options to choose from. These are a Master of Public Health (MPH), with the possibility to specialize in one of the following three disciplines-concentrations of public health: epidemiology and biostatistics, health promotion and community health, and health management and policy.

Public health is different from clinical medicine in that it looks at groups of people rather than individuals. Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and interact with each other.

So what do public health professionals do? While a doctor treats people who are sick, those who are working in the public health sector aim to prevent people from becoming sick or injured in the first place. They also promote wellness by encouraging healthy behaviors.

Public health is much more about preventing diseases and understanding why certain group of people get ill while other people do not. What are the factors that lead to the distribution of illness in a population (environment, conflict, etc.)? Why are some people more prone to particular illnesses than others are? And what could be done about it? Public health answers all these questions. Hence, the importance of studying public health becomes crystal clear.

Typically, AUB students concentrating in health management and policy tend to do kind of health quality improvements projects. They are based in health institutions. On the other hand, in health promotion and community health, students work on and carry out community-based projects. In epidemiology and biostatistics, students tend to use quantitative approaches to analyze the prevalence, for example, of a particular mental health issue. Some students from the program are currently doing research projects on the effects of conflicts and forced displacement on health.

The program’s vision was realized from the vision of the faculty itself, which is to promote the wellbeing of people and communities. The faculty thrives to prepare competent health professionals who can later on contribute to the creation of health policies. According to its website, the mission of the program is to “provide advanced training in public health, to prepare professionals, both practitioners and academicians, to competently assess, research, and respond to the health needs and public health issues in Lebanon and the region.”

The Graduate Public Health Program is also guided by core values which revolve around equality and social justice. It prepares its students by providing them with quality education in public health, innovative and relevant research in public health, and professional public health practice in Lebanon and the region.

Students enrolled in the Master of public health program spend around 300 hours working on a practicum in a health care related institution, be it governmental or nongovernmental. It allows the application of theoretical concepts to actual public health programs and enables a better understanding of students’ own personal and professional skills.

Farah Madi, a graduate student pursuing a Master in Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in Health Management and Policy, spoke of her experience within the program.

“My practicum experience has enabled me to apply the knowledge and skills that I have acquired from course work and my interpersonal communication skills in actual projects at the practicum site. I learned to adapt to challenges that are faced during project implementation. It also guided me in understanding how public health in embedded in the smallest aspects of healthcare planning and delivery and more interestingly how healthcare organizations’ day to day plans are influenced by their external and internal environments from internal policies, staffing, community needs, national policies  to international accreditation.”

It is important here to mention that the GPHP at FHS was accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), a US accrediting body, in 2006 and was reaccredited in 2012 for 7 years. The GPHP is the first public health program outside of the Americas to be accredited by CEPH and is still the only CEPH-accredited program in the Arab world, Asia and Africa.

GPHP is open to students from any discipline. One does not need any health background to go into public health, and the fact that students from all backgrounds have been increasingly applying to the program year after year shows the significance of such a field in our collective lives.

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