Ideas and innovations that could drive the coming tech-driven revolution in public health are emerging out of the UC Berkeley Public Health. Take Associate Professor Ziad Obermeyer’s AI (artificial intelligence)-related work on algorithmic bias, for instance.
A recent study from Obermeyer found that an algorithm being used to make decisions for 70 million people annually in the US was significantly biased against Black patients. The algorithm conflated healthcare costs with healthcare needs, resulting in minorities being comparatively underserved due to lack of access and discrimination. Obermeyer and his team worked with the company that made the algorithm to fix the bias, reducing it by 84%. Today, his research lab is working with various healthcare systems, insurers, and software developers to ensure this never happens again.
“We told it to predict measures of health instead of cost,” he explains. “We put together a lot of diagnostic codes, labs and vital signs because health is complicated, multi-dimensional, and hard to measure. But it’s worth it. Measuring things right is the way to make sure that algorithms are going to get resources to the people who need it. It also means that we will target our policies better by delivering relief funding to people who actually need it.”
Groundbreaking research like Obermeyer’s is common at UC Berkeley’s Public Health. Here, scientists have used data from 1,400 indoor air sensors to determine how well residents in San Francisco and Los Angeles were able to protect their homes from hazardous air. They’re working to develop COVID-19 diagnostic tests that can detect small amounts of viral RNA in less than an hour. They’ve received a US$800,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support their lab’s work in genetics-based malaria mosquito control. History has proven the importance of their studies.
Over the past decade, epidemics and pandemics such as Ebola, the Middle East respiratory syndrome, and now, COVID-19, have underscored the poor state of health services worldwide. As epidemics of infectious diseases now occur more often, and spread faster and further than ever, community and governmental action would benefit from innovation playing a bigger role in the promotion of health and the prevention and treatment of disease.
All of this relevant, ground-breaking research powers UC Berkeley’s Online Master of Public Health (MPH), celebrating 10 years of success in 2022.
Customisable, accessible, world-changing
The Online MPH offers a 27-month world-class Master of Public Health education that’s just as flexible as it is relevant –– making it an ideal pick for mid-career professionals vying for career advancement or an overall switch. The programme’s aim is to equip aspirants with the knowledge, skills and experience they need to create their own paths.
As part of UC Berkeley’s Online MPH Programme, you can design a world-class education. And the programme’s next decade will see new, outstanding faculty added to the teaching roster, a new Public Health Nutrition Concentration to begin in January 2022, and a new graduate certificate in Health Policy and Management.
MPH students can design a world-class education with their own unique spin: one that equips them with the knowledge, skills and experience they need to create their own career paths.
Students can combine courses in the following study areas: Health Care Management; Health Policy and Economics; Global Health; Epidemiology, Infectious Disease, and Regulatory Science; Community Health Sciences; Public Health Nutrition; and Spatial Data Science for Public Health.
Alternatively, students can choose to complete a full concentration in Public Health Nutrition, Health Policy and Management or Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Professor Stefano M. Bertozzi’s brand new programme, Implementation Science, offers a course for students interested across concentrations.
All courses emphasise a 360-degree perspective on healthcare — including how technology has opened up enormous opportunities to promote human health.
In the online class of Professor James Robinson, who leads the Health Policy and Management Division, he focuses on biomedical technology, which he defines broadly as including drugs, devices, vaccines, and diagnostics. “What’s evident, clearly with vaccines but also with drugs, is that innovation in the life sciences offers the possibility of really solving problems and not just managing them.”
The class has two audiences: individuals working in the life sciences and those working in policy and management.
The first set of learners are in the running to gain a better understanding of full life cycles –– from innovation through FDA authorisation, to insurer coverage, pricing, purchasing by hospitals, physician payment incentives, consumer cost sharing, and more. The second group will greatly benefit from understanding the basic dynamics of the product sector as a driving force behind improving patient outcomes and increasing expenditures.
“Our goal is to give students the skills to work anywhere in the health services and healthcare system,” Robinson shares.
Learning isn’t a one-way street in Robinson’s class, students teach him just as much. He thanks diversity for this. Screens are filled with students from every corner of the globe –– each looking to play a role in innovating a healthier tomorrow, in their own ways. Even Berkeley business school students are taking advantage of the programme’s online delivery.
“I constantly am dealing with students talking about stuff I’ve never heard of before,” Robinson shares. “They’re more digital natives than I am. Thanks to them, the Online MPH emphasises the life sciences more than ever before. We also have specialty classes on the pharma sector, the digital sector, a diagnostics section, content on artificial intelligence, and more.”
Nurturing heroes the world needs
To Robinson, there’s never been a better time for public health’s future heroes to consider an Online MPH. Apart from enabling students to continue working during their studies, it is an unrivalled choice for those looking to not just prepare for the careers they will soon assume, but also the ones that will emerge in the future.
“The future of higher education will be a hybrid of in-person and virtual modes, as will be the case in the delivery of medical care and many other sectors,” he says.
The world may not have seen a public health emergency on the scale of the Spanish Flu since 1918, but outbreaks are a fact of life. We may at any time. Vulnerabilities still exist.
The world-changing prowess of Online MPH graduates will be needed to guide this generation and the ones to come. UC Berkeley knows this, and so does the rest of the nation.
This year, the Biden-Harris administration announced its investment of US$7.4 billion from the American Rescue Plan to hire and train public health workers to respond to the pandemic and prepare for future public health challenges. With an Online MPH, anyone can lead similar fights from any part of the world.
Graduate Sandra Husbands is doing so as the Director of Public Health at London Borough of Hackney and City of London Corporation. “Almost every day I remember something from my Online MPH and put it into practice,” she says.
UC Berkeley has always understood the necessity for professionals like Husbands. As the Online MPH nears its 10-year anniversary, there are an increasing number of diverse aspirants, sharing a breadth of knowledge in exchange for fundamentals. For the UC Berkeley Online MPH Programme, things just keep getting better.
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