This is the first semester Concord University has offered a Master of Social Work.
It's one of four programs Concord has developed since becoming a University in 2004.
- Master of Education (five content specializations)
- Master of Arts in Teaching
- Master of Arts in Health Promotion
- Master of Social Work
The programs have the potential to help improve overall public health in the area.
The Master of Art in Health Promotion is listed online as a program that “emphasizes primary prevention and the empowerment of communities to address their own health and social needs in ways that can improve the health status of the greater community and reduce health care costs.”
This is the second year Concord has offered this professionally geared degree.
Dr. Jill Nolan is an Assistant Professor of Health Education and Coordinator of the Master of Arts in Health Promotion program. Nolan says the application of the program has the potential to help turn the tides of poor health in the region.
“In West Virginia we have a lot of health disparities, she said. “We are either first or second in a lot of health problems and chronic diseases so having a group of people who are learning more and more about how to prevent these problems and how to promote health is going to benefit health in a lot of ways.”
West Virginia claimed the 47th spot in the America’s Health Rankings report in 2012. It also had the most cardiac heart disease cases and was seventh for regular cholesterol checkups.
But the program is working to change those numbers. Several courses focus on rural public health. Nolan says one of the five graduates last year studied the awareness of the Human Papilloma Virus or HPV vaccine on Concord’s campus as part of the master’s practicum.
“We found that having a regular health care provider didn’t seem to impact your level of knowledge," Nolan said.
"So we thought that was a good opportunity maybe to educate providers on being educators and to talk with the people they see about sexual health risk and about opportunities for prevention with vaccination.”
Dr. Cheryl Barnes is Chair of the Division of Education, Associate Dean and served as the interim director of graduate studies for five years.
“They don’t have to go north," Barnes said. "They don’t have to travel up to Marshall. They don’t have to travel to WVU or any place like that."
"They don’t have to go out of state. We do border Virginia so we do offer some incentives for our Virginia people that border us as well.”
Most of the master’s programs are completely online, like the Masters in Health Promotions, or hybrid courses. Barnes says it’s important to offer those types of choices to graduate students.