Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, December 2, 2022

UTC gets grant to study public health

Dr. Amir Alakaam, associate professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at UTC and director of the Master of Public Health program. - Photo by Angela Foster and courtesy of UTC

During the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noticed a glitch in Tennessee’s public health system.

Its network was limited and the information it provided was out-of-date.

“The CDC saw that [the state’s public health system] needed to be updated so everyone will be prepared for the next crisis or emergency,” says Dr. Amir Alakaam, associate professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and director of the school’s Master of Public Health program.

To help ensure that goal is realized, the master’s program recently received a $332,500 grant from the Tennessee Department of Public Health for a project titled “Developing a Curriculum for Public Health Workforces in Tennessee.” The endeavor will study the state’s information delivery system and develop ways to improve it.

The public health curriculum developed through this project will be disseminated to health professionals and providers across the state.

Alakaam said it’s the first significant grant obtained by the MPH program since it began in 2018.

“I like this grant because it will recognize the important role our MPH program plays in Tennessee.”

Along with Alakaam, the research team will include two graduate students in the MPH program.

The project aims to develop a list of topics that cover statewide public health issues and collect data on those topics as the basis for training materials to address the problems.

“We have two concentrations: chronic disease prevention and control and nutrition and dietetics,” says Alakaam, a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Public Health Association.

“We’ll be developing a set of training materials and modules on public health and nutrition that support public health professionals continuing education and development, as well as integrate evidence-based health interventions that will be distributed through the Tennessee Department of Health.”

The training materials will cover chronic diseases and obesity management, the science of nutrition, dietary risk factors and lifestyle, nutrition needs during opioid use and recovery, policies and practices related to breastfeeding in the U.S. and food insecurity.

“Providing up-to-date training on chronic disease management to local public health providers will advance the performance of public health providers and health agencies,” Alakaam says, “which will improve the quality of health in the community.”

Alakaam, who recently was selected as president of the Chattanooga Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says any public health program must collaborate with community partners in order to be effective.

“You see resistance in any community intervention,” he says. “To go against that, you must involve community partners. When a person hears someone from their church or someone from their school talk about nutritional health, it can start the change.”

Source: UTC