College of Human Ecology to Offer New M.S.

December 16, 2010

College of Human Ecology to Offer New M.S. in Child & Family Health in the Global Community

December 13, 2010

Beginning in August 2011, the College of Human Ecology will begin offering a master of science in Child & Family Health in the Global Community, a 36-credit hour graduate program that will be a key component of the educational programs making up the college’s signature in public health.

The M.S. program offers students an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the factors influencing the health and well-being of children and families in the context of the global community. The program will examine a broad spectrum of factors, including infectious and chronic diseases, genetics and disabilities that require families to interface with medical care providers, service agencies and policy decision makers in their communities.

“The rates of childhood diseases and the associated challenges faced by children and families have continued to increase over the past several decades, despite societal efforts to address these concerns. The need to consider new ways of understanding what lies at the core of health-related problems and health practitioner training is paramount,” says Lutchmie Narine, department chair and associate professor in the Department of Health and Wellness, and associate dean of research in the College of Human Ecology.

Many threats to children’s health exist today, from biomedical challenges such as infectious diseases, chronic illnesses and disabilities, to psychosocial challenges such as child abuse and neglect. Ecological and cultural factors shape the meanings that health practitioners and families attribute to children’s health and illness and how these connotations influence choices made regarding care practices, children’s exposure to potential dangers, requests for assistance and responses to interventions.

The new program will incorporate the study of cultural health norms and practices, barriers and facilitators of family-health practitioner relations and how children define and interpret their symptoms, how they feel about themselves and how they respond to treatment. The program will also integrate the study of historical experiences of ethnic groups (e.g., racial prejudice) and their culturally determined patterns of dealing with issues of health and illness.

This degree program resulted from feedback over several years from employers and higher education partners about the need for advanced training in child and family health and the value of taking a global approach to this topic. Students of the program will benefit from knowledge about how other cultures around the world handle problems similar to those faced in our region, which is particularly significant given the growth in international groups—including refugees—taking up residence in this region.

The M.S. in Child & Family Health in the Global Community is a unique interdisciplinary academic program in the College of Human Ecology that builds on expertise in areas including public health, child and family development, social work, nutrition, inclusive education and law. The faculty come from diverse backgrounds with extensive experience in the United States, Caribbean, Canada, East Asia and the Middle East that will offer students valuable exposure to issues and lifestyles of these cultures. The varieties of faculty disciplines offer students more than the traditional perspective that will add in-depth knowledge from multiple perspectives.

This degree is designed to prepare graduates for health careers in a variety of local, national and international settings. The graduate training includes education in and outside the classroom. Students gain an in-depth understanding of health related factors that limit performance in schools and access and use of legal and health systems, for all individuals including those with physical disabilities. The students will be well trained professionals in health and social policies, program development and implementation and program evaluation, which will allow them to work in policy, research and service settings.

Overall, this program seeks to develop a new group of health care professionals who are trained to meet the needs of the local, national and international community. The global perspective of the program will be invaluable for graduate students interested in meeting the needs of the increasingly diverse population of New York state and the United States.

The new program will have many unique features, including its focus on prenatal and postnatal health disparities and their impact on lifelong health; a focus on developmental and ecological transitions along the life course; the inclusion of intervention models from selected fields to address the needs of children and families with special health concerns, and a focus on the challenges of children and families with disabilities. This academic offering leverages established practicum sites at more than 200 agencies, including the Say Yes Project in the Syracuse City School District, the College of Law’s Children’s Rights and Family Law Clinic, and the School of Education’s Disability Rights Clinic.