Cornellians invited to join NYS public health training

University faculty, students, staff, alumni and partners based in New York can build on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic by enrolling in the new Citizen Public Health Leader Training Program developed by Cornell experts in partnership with New York state.

Program leaders say next week – National Public Health Week – is an ideal time to start the online course offered through eCornell. Up to 10,000 seats will open for the course providing eight hours of self-paced, interactive instruction on topics including COVID-19, structural inequities that influence U.S. health and climate change. This is complemented by optional participation in talks on current public health topics.

Cornell impacting New York State

Some 18,000 people have already registered interest in the training launched March 24, and the first cohort of 5,000 started coursework on March 30. Announced in January by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the program’s goal is to develop a network of at least 100,000 citizen public health leaders who can play a role in supporting preparedness and health in neighborhoods across the state. Sign up here.

“In addition to our immediate response, public health emergencies are a time for us to learn about what led to them and what can we do to prevent them in the future, and that’s exactly what this course is about,” said Dr. Gen Meredith, associate director of Cornell’s Master of Public Health program, who helped design the curriculum. “To celebrate National Public Health Week and recognize all that we can do to be more informed and prepared for the future, we invite the Cornell community to join us.”

The four two-hour units, Meredith said, provide “a pretty cool overview” of many aspects of public health, including:

  • “Preventing and Addressing COVID-19,” which offers information on COVID-19 and how it affects us, prevention mechanisms and practical tools and ideas about how to help people in your network with strategies or vaccine information;
  • “Healthy New York Communities,” which focuses on health literacy, reviewing the diseases responsible for most deaths across the U.S. and in New York state – what causes them, how to prevent them, and how to take an active role in health promotion individually, within families and in communities;
  • “Public Health for Community Resilience,” which looks at systemic factors contributing to noncommunicable and communicable diseases, mental health and addiction, and then how public health works, as an approach, to support individual and community health, providing ideas to build public health awareness in communities from schools to faith communities to neighborhoods; and
  • “Public Health Preparedness,” which reviews environmental issues that impact health, such as climate change, air pollution and biodiversity loss. This unit closes with emergency preparedness, actions and next steps, to help prepare for public health threats of the future.

Despite pandemic fatigue and increasing access to COVID-19 vaccinations, Meredith said, it’s important to seize the current moment to not only boost future pandemic preparedness but also advance discussions about structural changes needed to improve public health in New York and beyond.

“It’s not just about preparing for the next pandemic,” she said. “This course will help people become aware of factors that put some communities more at risk of disease and disability, as we’ve seen play out in the COVID-19 pandemic, and most importantly, how to be a part of positive change.”

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Lindsey Knewstub