Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New human health major aims at culture change

“Health is something that’s not just physical,” says Brooke Healey, a junior at Emory. “It’s so much more than that.”

Healey is majoring in human health, an interdisciplinary degree launched this fall at the university that aims to give students practical skills to develop health-related careers, along with a holistic understanding of physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

“We are offering the only bachelors of human health in the country, at a time when health is being redefined,” says Michelle Lampl, director of Emory’s Center for the Study of Human Health. “For too long, our concept of ‘health’ has been limited culturally by our construct of what it is not: The disease state. We are on the cutting edge of using science not just to cure disease, but to identify, predict and support health.”

Emory is uniquely suited to pioneer the human health major, Lampl says, drawing on expert faculty and resources from throughout the humanities and sciences. The first cohort of majors includes students interested in law, political science, economics and business, as well as public health and medicine.

“Human health is a major global issue, and at the same time is a leading sector for job growth,” Lampl says.

The human health graduates, she notes, will help expand and change not just what we mean by the word “health,” but what it means to have a health-related career.

The new major builds on the Center for the Study of Human Health’s programs such as its Health 100 course, launched in 2011, that all Emory freshman are required to take. The course, rooted in predictive health research at Emory, includes classes on topics like nutrition and exercise, as well as small-group discussions to help students manage the stress of college life. Trained upperclassmen serve as mentors, in the form of peer health partners and healthy eating partners.

“The students aren’t just gaining a new perspective on their own health,” says Lisa Dupree, the center’s associate director. “They’re learning how to help their friends, families and others change their behaviors.”

College has long been associated with burning the candle at both ends, Lampl notes, a compressed time when young people are expected to achieve a great deal, while also learning to navigate daily life on their own.

“It’s such a critical period,” she says. “We want to help students step off the moving pathway, take stock of their daily decisions, and get on the right road to true well-being.”

“My peer health partner was great,” says Healey, who recently underwent training to become one herself. “A lot of the things taught to me were valuable in terms of health, stress management and adapting to the college lifestyle.” (Watch the videos, above, to hear more feedback from the students about Emory’s human health classes.)

Lesson No. 1: Learn to relax
A personalized approach to health education
Hydroponic lettuce offers a taste of green food
A healthy business is in his cards
Tapping traditional remedies to fight modern super bugs

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