The more things change, the more they stay the same

CEPH is lucky to have a trove of information for public health accreditation history buffs—there must be some of you out there! In addition to past versions of the accreditation criteria that illustrate the evolution of curricula, staff found a copy of the 1953 APHA Publication “The Accreditation of North American Schools of Public Health” by C.E.A. Winslow. The publication summarizes the accreditation criteria of the time (16 standards, for those who are curious, all of which have analogues in the 2016 version of the criteria). After restating the standards, the report provides narrative description and some data about the 11 accredited schools.

We’ll bring you some more gems and highlights from the report in the coming months, but, in light of our current curricular context, we wanted to share some observations from the portion of the report titled “The ‘Core Course’ and ‘Human Ecology.” Winslow makes the following observation: “The diversity of fields covered by the modern public health program may easily produce a certain confusion in the mind of the beginning student.” This observation is followed by three case studies of curricular innovation from accredited schools:

  • “The fundamental element… is a ‘Core Course’ entitled ‘Principles and Practices of Public Health,’ which occupies on the average of about eight hours a week throughout the academic year… In this course, various members of the faculty participate, covering their respective fields, such as… epidemiology, physiological hygiene, nutrition, mental health… and problems of public health and community organization.”
  • “…the year opens with two basic required courses of 16 hours each, one on Human Ecology and one on Community Organization, which orient the public health program to the framework of modern society.”
  • “…all departments shall cooperate in a basic required course based primarily on consideration of the community and its needs, passing on to public health as an essential community service, the factors which influence the causation and control of disease, the evaluation of health status, the methods of promoting health, the problem of communication and education, and the principles of administration.”

As schools and programs revise curricula and look to train public health practitioners and academics for the 21st century, it’s striking to have this window into past public health curricula. Some references are dated; for example, the accreditation criteria of the time suggest that students might want to complete advanced specialization coursework in “venereal disease control,” but other references and discussions are as fresh today as they were at the time of the report’s publication. It’s a great reminder of the throughlines and consistency that mark our field, even as we advance and innovate.

Written by Mollie Mulvanity, MPH