Major Spotlight: Introducing Public Health

Shannon Cardinal, Advising Editor

The Westbrook College of Health Profession (WCHP) at UNE now offers a Bachelors in Public Health. This program prepares the student to study and prevent the spread of disease, promote health, and improve the quality of life of our communities, nations and the world. For those interested in the medical field this is a wonderful, broad health track where the focus is on helping populations, not just individuals, to live fuller and healthier lives.

Professor Rebecca Boulos is very excited to discuss the new major when we sit down to chat at the Congress Street Coffee by Design. She and fellow faculty members from WCHP designed the program, which provides a stepping stone to UNE’s already well established Masters in Public Health. This program is unique and helpful, offering undergraduate students interested in the field the chance to get an edge in their training by complementing the education they might pursue later.

Though the Masters is online, Boulos explained “we had really wanted to do an on-campus program” for the undergraduate degree. So, together with Prof. Jen Gunderman and Prof. Michelle Polacsek, they worked on a curriculum and a proposal, and pitched the idea. Boulos feels this new major is well suited to those who “think they want to go into medicine” but find the medical profession isn’t quite for them. It offers the student a chance to pursue their interest without limiting them to becoming an individual health care provider, such as a doctor or nurse. An interesting cross between medicine and sociology, this major leaves the student with a “very tangible set of skills.” Students learn to “think in systems” to evaluate the social, economic, political, psychological and physical factors effecting communities and populations, and develop strategies to address health concerns and promote healthy behaviors. Students become practiced at statistics, analysis, and writing policy briefs.

According to Boulos, a major misconception people have about studying public health is “[they] think it’s a lot of ‘don’ts.’ Don’t Smoke, Don’t Drink, – but it’s really about asking ‘How can we support people to access what they need to be happy and healthy.” That means government programs like free and reduced lunch for public schools, SNAP benefits, and offering affordable health insurance.

Students interested in this new major are encouraged to visit for more information.