Public Health


A public health minor will enhance this learning experience at Mary Baldwin. Knowledge of public health issues will prepare students for the complex issues facing the U.S.:

  • Drug resistant bacteria
  • Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases
  • Terrorism involving biological, chemical, and radiological agents
  • Environmental issues including climate change, air and water pollution, and effects of energy sources on health
  • Obesity epidemic
  • Pandemic flu
  • Soaring costs of medical care and the uninsured
  • Health disparities related to racial/ethnic/socioeconomic factors
  • Health care access disparities
  • Effects of globalization including effects on the food supply
  • Advances in genetics and molecular biology including genetic modification of foods, cloning, stem cell research, gene therapy, and sequencing of the human genome
  • Increasing emphasis on evidence-based medicine and public health requiring knowledge of scientific methodologies and epidemiology

The characteristics of public health with its social justice focus complement the mission of Mary Baldwin College as a liberal arts college “welcoming a broad diversity of views”.

“Concern for the individual; commitment to the liberal arts as preparation for life, for careers, for graduate and professional studies, and for leadership; and emphasis on high ethical standards.”

The Mary Baldwin Commitment reflects the underlying social justice orientation and interdisciplinary nature of public health by preparing “students for responsible citizenship both in their own society and among the other peoples of the world”; by liberating “students from prejudice, intolerance, and ignorance”; and by “inform(ing) the heart, enlighten(ing) the conscience, and disciplin(ing) the intellect.”

Of special concern in the public health professions is the lack of diversity. “Twenty five percent of the U.S. population is composed of underrepresented groups, yet they represent only 10 percent of the health professions and are growing very modestly” (APHA, 2006).

“As our country becomes increasingly diverse, our health care system has a greater need to diversify its health care work force….” APHA

The characteristics of public health complement the learning objectives of the core curriculum and general education requirements of Mary Baldwin College:

For example:

  • “Preparation of students for lifelong intellectual engagement with and appreciation of our own and other cultures” complements the societal emphasis of public health.
  • The public health workforce is interdisciplinary and requires workers exposed to “knowledge, principles, and methods used within liberal arts disciplines”.
  • Epidemiology, the science of public health, represents an approach to problem solving applicable to all fields of study and seeks to “improve critical and creative thinking skills for analysis and synthesis”
  • Community health education and acquiring and presenting supportive evidence to influence policy makers and administrators require “clear oral and/or written communication skills”.

The unique social justice and political nature of public health complement Mary Baldwin College’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), “Learning for Civic Engagement in a Global Context” with its emphasis on social action while preparing its students for “purposeful participation in their local community and their nations, and as global citizens”:

The Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement supports civic and global learning by serving as a repository for education and civic action. The center embodies Mary Baldwin’s commitment to “instilling in students the mental habit of perceiving themselves as dynamic parts of a complex natural, social, and global environment”.

Globalization affects the nation’s public health as evidenced by multistate food borne outbreaks, tainted consumer products, and potential rapid transmission of influenza and other infectious diseases by air travel.

Public health in the 21st century has assumed an even greater role in emergency preparedness as reflected by: CDC’s on-going studies of emergency responders and communities exposed to airborne chemicals and particulates associated with 911; major natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and their physical, mental, and social effects; and on-going concerns about international terrorism related to biological, chemical, and radiological agents.

Mary Baldwin considers liberal arts education in a global context. Likewise, public health professionals have realized that in the 21st century, public health is “without borders” and must be considered in a global context. The American Public Health Association (APHA) 136th annual meeting (October 2008) theme was “Public Health Without Borders” exploring transnational public health and addressing “a diversity of topics including immigrant and refugee health; water and land rights; coordinating disease surveillance and epidemiologic response activities across borders; air and water pollution management across borders; and the international transmission of socio-cultural behaviors with adverse health implications. The Health Care Administration Program includes an entire course in “Global Health” making it one of the few undergraduate programs in the U.S. with such an offering.