New KU Online Graduate Certificate Develops Students’ Community Health and Development Skills

This online graduate certificate program gives students the skills to improve a community's quality of life.

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OVERLAND PARK (Feb. 11, 2020) – The KU Department of Applied Behavioral Science and Edwards Campus (KUEC) are providing a new online certificate in applied community health and development. The program covers core aspects of public health, public policy and social welfare, including community assessment, strategic planning and intervention. The program can be taken as a stand-alone certificate for working professionals or serve as a specialization for master’s students. Professionals with this specialization can apply it toward careers in substance abuse and violence prevention, creating access to healthy food and safe housing, and child and maternal health promotion, as well as many other related professional areas.

“The point of this certificate is the focus on community,” said Vincent Francisco, Ph.D., director of the KU Center for Community Health and Development and Professor of Applied Behavioral Science. “Whether you’re working as part of a community coalition, a community-based organization, a nonprofit or a corporation, developing effective behavior change programs in a community context requires unique perspectives, approaches and training, which this program provides.”

The nine-credit-hour certificate program is conducted completely online, in keeping with the all-online Master of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science also offered through KUEC and the Department of Applied Behavioral Science. The degree prepares students for careers in the field of behavioral science, particularly in applied behavior analysis. Skills for community health and development, which overlap with applied behavioral science, include advocacy, assessing community needs and resources, and developing strategic plans and change models that address a community’s public health needs.

Francisco says the certificate program allows degree-seeking students to pick up additional knowledge and provides current professionals with an opportunity for specialized training, without having to earn another degree.

“For many people, earning an entire degree will take many years,” Francisco said. “This concentration will allow them to pick up the skills needed for effective community programming, building upon their other advanced behavioral science skills.” The certificate can be earned in less than a year.

The online graduate certificate in applied community health and development originated as an in-person program taught at KU’s Lawrence campus, with a curriculum based on more than 15 years of teaching and training.

Stephen Fawcett, Ph.D., Kansas Health Foundation Emeritus Distinguished Professor and senior advisor for the Center for Community Health and Development at KU, wrote the proposal for the in-person program. Fawcett is also co-director of the World Health organization Collaborating Centre. He says the online version will make it easier for more students to gain valuable professional skills.

“Building healthy communities is the work of all of us — whether as professionals or as community members. This requires skill in working together to identify and address issues that matter in our communities,” Fawcett said. “To be effective, we need to be able to evaluate our efforts and sustain what works. This is why the graduate certificate is so important! It prepares learners for all these skills, and more.”

KU Edwards Campus Vice Chancellor David Cook says the new online certificate allows more students to make a difference in the Kansas City region and beyond.

“We’re proud to offer this opportunity for our students to apply their knowledge at a societal level and make an impact through the work they’ll do after furthering their education,” Cook said. “The Applied Community Health and Development specialization represents a commitment to bettering our world, and a commitment to addressing the unique community health needs of the region.”

About The University of Kansas

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. Its mission is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world. The KU Edwards Campus at 127th Street and Quivira Road in Overland Park brings the high-quality academic, professional and continuing education programs as well as research and public-service benefits of KU to the Greater Kansas City community in order to serve the workforce, economic and community development needs of the region.

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