OVERLAND PARK — The University of Kansas 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 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, among other areas.
“The point of this certificate is the focus on community,” said Vincent Francisco, 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 online, in keeping with KU's online Master of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science. It 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.
Francisco says the certificate, which can be earned in less than a year, allows degree-seeking students to pick up additional knowledge and provides current professionals with an opportunity for specialized training.
“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 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, Kansas Health Foundation Emeritus Distinguished Professor and senior adviser for the community health and development center, 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 said the new online certificate allowed 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.”