September 29, 2020

BY WESLEY BUTLER

Because of an expanding job market, emerging occupations and more private sector jobs, administrators and faculty in Conestoga College’s School of Health and Life Sciences are exploring the need for a degree in public health.

The school received a request from the Region of Waterloo Public Health earlier this year, outlining the gaps in environmental health education.

Currently, a degree in public health can only be obtained at Ryerson University in Toronto, Cape Breton University in Sydney, N.S., the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Burnaby, B.C., Concordia University College in Edmonton, Alta., and at the First Nations University of Canada in Regina, Sask.

If approved, the degree would include courses on the impact of living and human health, food sciences and nutrition, water, air, the effects of pollution, population, and public health promotion and education. It would also focus on risk assessment, emerging issues, infection prevention and control, and communicable and non-communicable diseases.

“Each semester would be designed around what we call a hub course, which would integrate other courses,” said Curt Monk, chair of informatics and life sciences. “We are hoping to offer a variety of courses that will make potential students knowledgeable in the field of environmental health.”

The degree would take four years to complete, and the school plans on implementing a two-year advanced standing option for students who already have obtained a university degree or a diploma in a related field. They would be able to transfer credits from another institution, and expand their education. That way, students could complete the degree in two or three years.

If the degree gets approved, the college hopes to see the first intake by September 2015.

“In order for the degree to be created, we must design it carefully,” said Monk. “After that, it has to be approved internally by the college first.”

Before the school submits the degree for approval, the program map will be created, which will outline the delivery sequence of the program, what courses would be offered, and their descriptions.

Upon graduation, students would expect careers as traditional public health inspectors at a local health unit and environmental health officers. This degree would also open the door to a career in food security, housing, injury prevention, infection control, hazardous materials management, and drinking water quality.

“The public health degree would be an applied degree,” said Monk. “It would be entirely hands-on, which is an aspect all colleges should have.”