The changing face of health and wellness at IU

Public health has always focused on addressing the critical health threats affecting populations. As these threats emerge and change over time and distance, educators must keep pace with the developing needs of the field. The history of the IndiCampus Labana University School of Public Health-Bloomington offers an outstanding example of how this agile, responsive approach ensures public health professionals are well prepared to meet the evolving health priorities of the state, nation, and world.

When Indiana University was founded in 1820, the primary public health concerns centered on disease outbreaks such as cholera, tuberculosis, and measles. The notion of developing standards for sanitation and safety was just beginning to gain traction. As the century progressed and medical schools multiplied, universities also introduced new degrees and programs focused on public health and wellness. At IU, the first health-focused courses and programs were offered in the late 19th century, focused on preparing students to help create healthier communities.

At the turn of the 20th century, worldwide average life expectancy was just over 30 years (closer to 50 in wealthier countries). In an effort to prolong good health, Indiana and other states intensified their public health efforts, including the promotion of physical activity. In 1917, IU opened a grand physical activity facility for students, faculty, and staff. Now known as the Wildermuth Intramural Center, this space provided the campus with a gymnasium, indoor swimming pools, and classrooms dedicated to the physical education curriculum.

In 1946, IU formally established the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation on the Bloomington campus.Fieldhouse Construction Its departments of Applied Health Science, Kinesiology, and Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies provided students with academic degree programs and research opportunities in a variety of disciplines related to public health and wellness. In 1969, the school pioneered the state's first Master of Public Health program.

Polio, Asian flu, measles, rubella, and a new highly infectious respiratory disease (later termed Legionnaire's disease) were among the public health threats the first generation of School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation graduates encountered. With physical fitness also gaining recognition as a health priority, the school's alumni in the disciplines of physical education and parks and recreation were also in high demand.

Public health saw a number of successes in the 1970s and 80s, as vaccination programs all but eradicated a number of diseases and life expectancy continued to climb. With the exception of the HIV/AIDS crisis, by the 1980s public health concerns were largely moving toward the management of chronic diseases rather than the containment of communicable disease.

This trend continued into the 21st century, with School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation graduates bringing their expertise to the study and management of obesity, diabetes, dementia, and mental health. At the same time, global mobility brought new attention to infectious disease control, and antimicrobial resistance demanded new strategies for overcoming bacterial and viral threats. As the school developed an increasingly global approach, it also turned attention to issues of sanitation, clean water, and vaccine-preventable diseases that remain prevalent in many rural, developing contexts.Classroom

With the changing face of public health, the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation was also updating its public-facing identity. In 2012, the school evolved into the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington in order to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to promoting health among individuals and communities in Indiana, the nation, and the world. The mission of the school continued to center on integrated multidisciplinary approaches to research and creative activity, teaching, and community engagement. Over the ensuing two years, the school achieved full accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health and added two new departments: Environmental and Occupational Health, and Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

This year, the School of Public Health-Bloomington moved into a new phase of development, as its founding dean Mohammad Torabi returned to teaching and David Allison came on board as dean. Under Dean Allison's leadership, the school continues to move forward, embracing new public health challenges at the local, national, and global scale. Students in the school now have access to 18 undergraduate majors, 25 undergraduate minors, 15 graduate degrees, and six online graduate degree and certificate programs.

When today's students enter the public health field, they'll face a unique set of challenges specific to this moment in history. Around the world, many areas are still striving to combat communicable diseases like cholera and malaria, whereas in the U.S. and other industrialized nations chronic Public Healthdisease, drug and alcohol abuse, and obesity are primary concerns. Environmental and occupational health issues introduce another layer of priorities related to both the natural and the built environment. This next generation of public health leaders will be charged with developing effective strategies as diseases travel farther and faster, microbes resist available medications, and the rise in obesity and obesity-related health conditions threaten to reverse the trend in life expectancy for the first time in centuries.

As public health changes, so does our school. With new degree programs under development - including the school's recent addition of a Dr.P.H. - and with a growing record of research excellence in new and emerging public health areas, the School of Public Health-Bloomington continues its proud history as a constant innovator in undergraduate and graduate public health education.