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The specializations at UND – Health Management & Policy and Population Health Research & Evaluation – have a rural emphasis. Rural communities are not identical, as North Dakota illustrates well. There are booming towns in the oil and gas fields, agricultural communities in the rich Red River Valley, American Indian reservations in the central plains, and frontier locales. Rural areas are also continually changing in multiple ways including population size, economic basis, and culture. How to meet the challenges of change and diversity within rural areas is of particular importance to public health. Rural issues affecting population health and the multiple determinants of population health – medical care, public health interventions, the social environment, the physical environment, and individual behavior – are addressed in both specializations. The specializations provide integrative, creative, and practical learning experiences that foster intellectual growth, critical thinking, and practical engagement around issues of population health, particularly in rural areas. Graduates are prepared to work in health care delivery organizations, health plans, non-governmental health organizations, and government agencies. Students wishing to choose one of these specializations will apply to UND.
The U.S. health care system is changing rapidly as a result of public and private efforts to decrease costs, increase efficiency, improve quality, and provide universal access to care. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 addresses these issues comprehensively and is having a major impact on health care delivery, as are other policies at the federal, state, and local levels. Focused initiatives such as those to improve patient safety or advance medical informatics are having a significant effect, as well. This specialization prepares students with skills necessary to improve health care delivery, particularly in rural areas. Students gain skills needed to manage health delivery systems effectively and efficiently, analyze health policies, and communicate successfully to effect change in health policy and management.
Maintenance and improvement of population health depend upon research and evaluation that provide information about the kinds of health problems experienced by a population, their origins, and the effectiveness of remedies. Health organizations, both public and private, are charged with justifying their activities to their stakeholders with credible research on the outcomes of those activities. This specialization prepares students to produce convincing and scientifically sound information to answer questions about population health, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and provide the basis for improving health policies and programs. The course of study includes training in qualitative and quantitative research methods, policy analysis, advanced biostatistics, informatics, and communication through report writing and presentations. Rural health applications are emphasized, as are the concepts of efficiency, effectiveness, equity, and cultural competence.