Health + Behavior

Fielding School of Public Health to start program to increase diversity in the workforce

A five-year $2.7 million grant from the CDC will help UCLA launch the initiative

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The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health has a received a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office of Minority Health and Health Equity to launch a training program for undergraduate students to pursue careers in public health.

The UCLA Public Health Scholars Training Program will be part of the larger CDC Undergraduate Public Health Scholars program network. The UCLA program provides undergraduate students committed to working with populations that are underserved and underrepresented the opportunity to explore the field of public health through hands-on training, structured workshops, group excursions, and leadership and professional development.

The students participating in the eight-week summer program at UCLA will be partnered with Los Angeles-based organizations, health systems and government agencies where they will contribute three days per week toward substantive public health projects. They will also participate in educational workshops two days per week. The workshops are centered around themes, such as health equity, social justice, health disparities, social determinants of health and prevention. Mentorship is incorporated throughout the program, providing additional support to scholars.

“The idea is to not only provide educational and field experience opportunities to scholars, but to also foster community among the students, faculty, and public health practitioners, which will help the scholars develop a strong connection to public health,” said Dr. Michael Prelip, program director and chair of community health sciences at the Fielding School.

The launch of the training program comes at a critical time for public health in the United States. There is currently a shortfall in the public health workforce and a minimum of 250,000 new public health workers will be needed by 2020 to fill gaps created by retirement and other turnover.

“Not only is there a need to increase the workforce, but also its diversity,” said Lindsay Rice, program manager of the UCLA Public Health Scholars Training Program. To be effective, the public health workforce must be responsive to dynamic demographic factors in the U.S. population. While the U.S. Census Bureau projects that underrepresented minorities will compose 40 percent of the U.S. population by 2050, the current public health workforce lacks racial and ethnic diversity. Disparities also persist in the distribution of public health personnel with many rural areas facing significant shortages and challenges accessing care.

As part of the training program, UCLA will partner with community-based organizations, health systems, and government agencies located throughout Los Angeles to address the need to increase the diversity of the public health workforce, improve the representation of underserved and underrepresented groups in public health, and solidify the public health pipeline.

About 200 students will participate in the program during the course of five years, and will be provided with a stipend of $3,000, housing, some meals, transit passes and a trip to the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia. Applications for 2018 will be accepted until Jan. 31.

“We hope the program propels these scholars through successful academic endeavors and into meaningful careers in the health professions,” Prelip said.

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