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Distributed January 12, 2006
Contact Wendy Lawton

Brown, R.I. Department of Health Team up for Public Health Training

From bird flu to bioterrorism, epidemiology to environmental health, Rhode Island health leaders this year can learn about topics critical to improving public health, through a new training program planned by Brown Medical School and the Rhode Island Department of Health.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Officials from Brown University’s Program in Public Health and the Rhode Island Department of Health are planning new training for health professionals. The initiative is aimed at improving public health skills, from data analysis to health communication. The educational effort includes a key role for community-based organizations and other public health partners.

Pfizer Inc. is funding the Public Health Training Program with a $180,000 educational grant. Program managers, physicians and other practitioners in the government, business and non-profit sectors can enroll in the sessions, which will be led by Brown faculty as well as Department of Health and other local experts. The program is expected to launch this summer.

“New public health strategies and tools are being developed at an astounding pace. We are thrilled by the opportunity to work with our valued partner, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and many other valued community partners to develop a training program focused on sharing new skills and expanding the knowledge base of public health professionals,” said Terrie “Fox” Wetle, professor of community health and associate dean of medicine for public health and public policy at Brown. “With this educational support from Pfizer Global Pharmaceutical’s U.S. Public Health Program, we will be able to develop a program that reaches out to the community to improve the health of Rhode Islanders.”

Wetle will oversee the program with David Gifford, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Rhode Island Department of Health and associate professor of medicine and community health at Brown, with guidance from an advisory board of 30 representatives of community-based organizations and academic programs.

The program will be tailored to fit the schedules of full-time workers by featuring summer courses, intensive one-day training sessions and evening or weekend classes.

The group developing the program will survey state agencies, insurance plans, hospitals and non-profits to determine relevant training topics and options for certification, continuing education credit and other “awards.” The program will offer training in a broad range of issues, including a series of “expert updates” on hot topics such as obesity prevention, bioterrorism preparedness, and emerging pathogens.

“This needs to address a community-based approach to public health training,” Gifford said. “We will continue to reach out to partner agencies and organizations to gather advice on how to design and implement the program so it meets a broad range of needs. Our market survey will give us a head start in the planning, but we intend to keep the communication flowing so that many agencies can benefit from training opportunities in public health-related topics.”

The Brown and Department of Health partnership will go well beyond creation and operation of the training program. Gifford recently appointed Robert J. Marshall, assistant director of health and clinical associate professor of community health at Brown, to head up the new Office of Research, Training and Practice. Officials will work together to improve access to and use of public health data, develop health communication strategies and promote more applied research projects between department staff and students in Brown’s Master of Public Health Program.


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