National Public Health Week

For both boys and girls, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates continue to be well below the Healthy People goals for 2020, leaving an entire generation susceptible to HPV-related cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. Most sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives.

During National Public Health Week April 7-13, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) Department of Public Health in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences recognizes the need to produce qualified public health professionals to prevent, detect and respond to threats including sexually transmitted diseases.

“Public health has the mandate to ensure conditions in which people can be healthy, in part by researching and understanding the causes of disease,” said Theresa Byrd, R.N., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., chair and associate dean of the Department of Public Health. “We now know that some cancers are caused by infectious agents. In the case of HPV, there are several strains that are considered high risk, but two of those strains (HPV 16 and 18) cause about 70 percent of the cervical cancer in the United States.”

The Department of Public Health is a collaboration among the schools of medicine, allied health sciences, nursing, pharmacy and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and will engage key disciplines at Texas Tech University and within the public health practice community. The overall department objective will be to provide a focal point for enhancing collaboration in public health teaching, service and research with a primary emphasis on improving health outcomes in vulnerable populations.

For example, public health professionals can help alleviate the impact of diseases like HPV by educating people in rural and urban communities about vaccines and other preventative measures, Byrd said.

“The development of a vaccine against these strains was an achievement that has the potential to drastically reduce the number of deaths from cervical cancer, and other cancers as well,” Byrd said. “Now our role is to assure that the vaccine is accessible to everyone, and that people take the initiative to get the vaccine.”

TTUHSC has developed a program offering an MPH degree and will seek accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health. Within five years, the university hopes to grow the program into a comprehensive School of Public Health.

“Public health is an exciting field of study and leads to many wonderful career possibilities in the five core disciplines: biosta¬tistics; environmental health; epidemiology; health policy and management; and social and behavioral sciences,” Byrd said. “Public health programs attract highly motivated people with great ideas, and I am looking forward to meeting our first group of students.”

The first class of 45 MPH students is expected to begin this fall. The application deadline for the program is May 1. For more information, visit http://www.ttuhsc.edu/biomedical-sciences/public-health/default.aspx or contact Beverly Bowen at (806) 743-2604 or beverly.bowen@ttuhsc.edu.

For more breaking news and experts, follow @ttuhscnews on Twitter.

Story produced by the Office of Communications and Marketing, (806) 743-2143.