ECU to establish School of Rural Public Health
ECU’s public health department will grow into a new School of Rural Public Health in August 2020, after plans were approved by the University of North Carolina System in May.
The new school will combine departments and centers already in existence at ECU – public health, health education and promotion, biostatistics, health services and information management and the Center for Health Disparities. These departments are in the Brody School of Medicine, the College of Allied Health Sciences and the College of Health and Human Performance.
Ronny Bell, professor and chair of Brody’s Department of Public Health, said the rural focus of the new school aligns with ECU’s Rural Prosperity Initiative and creates a niche for the university.
“This gives us the opportunity to set ourselves apart from the rest of the programs in the nation, but also align ourselves with the mission of the school,” Bell said. “There has to be a public health workforce that is responsive to the unique issues here in eastern North Carolina, and we feel like ECU is the ideal place to train those individuals.”
The seeds for the new School of Rural Public Health were planted during the late 1990s when planning groups looked at the public health landscape in the state to decide if it made sense for ECU to have its own public health school.
While the consensus was there was a strong need for a public health presence at ECU, plans for the school could not move forward at that time because ECU had not yet met certain prerequisites, such as a Department of Public Health, a master of public health degree and doctoral studies in two different concentrations – all of which have since been implemented.
ECU’s first four doctoral students in public health started last spring with a concentration in health policy, administration and leadership and another concentration in environmental and occupational health.
During the 2016-2017 school year, ECU granted 46 percent of the UNC system’s public health baccalaureate degrees and 29 percent of the master’s degrees in the field. University officials anticipate the new school will have an enrollment of approximately 1,800 students when it opens, based on current enrollment and projected growth.