ABU DHABI // Zayed University is partnering with the University of Arizona to offer its first postgraduate public health programme, reflecting the growing importance of health education and research. The new master's degree in public health, the first of its kind at a federal institution, will launch in the coming academic year for 20 new Emirati students.
Most would already be working within the health sector, said Dr Rex Taylor, the associate provost for programme development and community engagement. They will address some of the country's biggest public health issues such as obesity, vitamin D deficiency, diabetes and asthma. Students can take any one of the five modules and earn a certification from the two universities or they can take all five, and come away with a master's degree.
It will be a combination of online learning and interactive sessions for the courses, which include environmental and occupational health and public health policy and management. Students would need discipline to complete the modules in their own time, said faculty member Fathima Alanouti, although between two and five teaching staff will run the programme with guest visits from US faculty. "Many countries such as Canada and Norway are now using online courses for medical development," said Dr Taylor. "Here, people lead complicated lives and this makes it easier to deliver courses all over the emirates as far away as Ruwais and in the north, not just to those in the south."
This partnership would be an opportunity for the two universities to collaborate on research, said Dr Taylor. The students will be able to go on to work locally in the health sector or to expand more globally to work within institutions such as the World Health Organisation and the United Nations. "We will be taking research to the next level," said Dr Taylor, an expert in public health. "We are internationalising our capacity here."
Ms Alanouti said the similarities between the communities in the UAE and Arizona made the collaboration much stronger. "There are many similar issues which will only enhance our research," she said. "They are a mainly Hispanic population who would always have led very outdoors, active lives, but who have become very sedentary now, much like the social changes here. Like the UAE, they have problems such as vitamin D deficiency so this adds a global perspective and we will be working together on our research in this area."
Sara Hisham, 24, from Abu Dhabi, is one of the first to sign up to the course. A graduate of the health sciences course at Zayed University, she hopes to become a full time enviro-health researcher. She is already working with the university on vitamin D deficiency and said her master's degree would help to round her knowledge and skills base. "It will give us a lot more access to resources and equipment which will help us to further our careers," she said.
Other modules on the course are the basic principles of epidemiology, biostatistics for public health and sociocultural and behavioural aspects of public health. The faculty hopes to begin a global health master's course by the end of the year. As the focus on health policy grows, UAE University hopes to add a public health programme to its medical faculty in the coming academic year. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org