Winona State University is announcing the addition of a new Public Health Nutrition major, making it the only institution in Minnesota that offers an undergraduate degree in the field. The new emphasis augments the only four-year undergraduate program in Public Health in the Minnesota State System, adding to the three existing emphases: Health Administration, Epidemiology and Community Health. Students will learn to address nutritional needs of communities and diverse populations, an essential demand especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which food insecurity and other nutrition concerns have grown. Since the birth of WSU’s Public Health program in 2012, it has more than doubled in size and continues to grow to meet the demands of students.
The new program was created in direct response to student requests, as there has been frequent and consistent feedback from students in WSU’s existing nutrition minor, housed in WSU’s Health, Exercise and Rehabilitative Sciences (HERS) department, who wanted an option for a nutrition major program. The program will offer strong preparation for graduates looking to enter the public health work force directly after college. It will also position students wishing to pursue a master’s degree on the path to become registered dietitian/nutritionists.
In addition to core classes taken by all Public Health majors, Public Health Nutrition students will receive curriculum and experiences that are needed for high demand jobs. The program will prepare students for careers that promote healthy food habits and food access within communities. Students will learn the fundamentals of nutritional biochemistry and apply them in specialized nutrition courses. They will explore food cultures, belief systems and other factors that influence food decisions around the world.
WSU’s new Public Health Nutrition program comes at a time when uncertainties about access to food and other essentials are at an all-time high. Since the current global pandemic started, food security has deteriorated, leaving vulnerable populations disproportionately impacted by disrupted access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate foods. To combat these occurrences, many different nutrition programs across the country have been created, implemented, or altered. It’s this type of work which graduates of WSU’s Public Health Nutrition program will be prepared to take on, making this major essential to the overall program and field of Public Health.
WSU’s Public Health program was created eight years ago and continues to grow to meet the demands of students, which has led to the new Public Health Nutrition major. The Public Health degree currently gives students three options, Community Health Specialist, Epidemiology, or Healthcare Administration. With the addition of the new Nutrition option, the Public Health degree will now give students four different options that they can specialize in. The program also provides a Public Health minor. The Public Health programs give students a strong foundation for promoting health in communities, prepares students for a broad range of careers, and provides background in public health for medical careers.
Emily Vander Laan
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