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New Graduate Certificate in Population Health

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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has launched a graduate certificate program for health care professionals who want to specialize in a burgeoning, high-demand field that utilizes data analytics to improve health outcomes among specific groups of people.

The deadline to apply for UL Lafayette’s graduate certificate in population health, the state’s first program of its kind, is Feb. 4. Courses for the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions’ 12-credit-hour online program will begin March 14. Students accepted into the six-month program will enroll as a cohort.

Population health is an interdisciplinary branch of health information management. It involves consolidating patient data in one centralized location. The information “is used to understand health trends among people from a particular region, race, ethnicity, age group, gender – basically any group that shares similar circumstances or conditions,” explained Dr. Anita Hazelwood.

Hazelwood leads the college’s Department of Allied Health, which is home to the new program. She is also a Health Information Management professor. “One-on-one patient care will always be a primary concern; but technology is allowing health care providers and public officials to make broader determinations, and the big picture is invaluable in relation to quality of care issues,” Hazelwood said.

The graduate certificate in population health is designed for a range of professionals. They include clinicians, administrators, health information managers, quality improvement experts, information technology specialists, and analysts and risk managers.

Students will complete online courses over six months in three consecutive accelerated sessions – an eight-week session during the spring semester, a three-week summer intercession and an eight-week summer session.

“The online format enables coursework to be completed from anywhere, which is a big plus for many students, especially those who are trying to balance career and family obligations,” said Dr. Claire Arabie, director of the Office of Distance Learning.

The new program is geared toward students who have earned bachelor’s or graduate degrees in nursing, allied health, informatics, business and other disciplines, said Dr. Mary Farmer-Kaiser, dean of the Graduate School.

“The graduate certificate in population health will expand the University’s graduate offerings in health sciences related fields, providing another option for our students who want to compete in high-demand fields,” Farmer-Kaiser said.

Employment of medical and health services managers – a Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational category that includes population health analysts – is expected to increase by 32 percent between 2019 and 2029.

The growth projections “are driven by many factors, including technological advances, socioeconomic and epidemiological trends, and changes in health care delivery,” Farmer-Kaiser explained.

Health care providers and policymakers are increasingly relying on population health to address disparities in health care and enhance services. That’s particularly true among socioeconomic groups who lack resources for adequate medical care and in rural areas where health care facilities often don’t exist, Hazelwood said.

“The data-driven approach eliminates guesswork for a health care company, for example, in determining where to establish a cardiology or diabetic care clinic. It also informs decision-makers who allocate state or federal resources for health care programs and facilities,” she explained.

Population health is also invaluable to “public officials responsible for reporting data about communicable diseases, people whose job is to anticipate – and minimize – outbreaks of infectious diseases,” Hazelwood added.

Learn more about the program and how to apply.