Dr. Chandana Unnithan, Associate Professor in Public Health Torrens University Australia, shared some insights on the significance of Public Health in Australia and globally.
What is the relevance of Public Health Practice today?
We are living in a globalised world today, where migration of people has resulted in multi-ethnic, multi-cultural densely populated environments. Changing environments caused by climate along with people mobility has resulted in new challenges in managing population health. There is a strong need to monitor health status of communities, diagnose and investigate health concerns and hazards in communities; inform and educate people and mobilise communities to action – to contain health issues. It is necessary to manage population health as evolving health challenges continue to rise.
Public health profession is the science of preventing disease, extending healthy lives and fostering overall health amongst populations. It is done through organised efforts of organisations, public and private, communities and citizens and not only health professionals. It is an inter-disciplinary profession that draws professionals from health, technology, business, economics, environment – to name a few. As informed societies continue to grow, it seeks to address evolving population health challenges, leveraging innovations and enabled by technologies.
What is unique about Torrens University Public Health Programs?
Our public health programs are practice oriented, aimed at resolving real public health concerns, and hone a sustainable healthy world. Our graduates are expected to be industry ready professionals, who can seamlessly build the profession with their contextual skills in in Australia and at the global level.
“Public health profession is the science of preventing disease, extending healthy lives and fostering overall health amongst populations. It is done through organised efforts of organisations, public and private, communities and citizens and not only health professionals”
How do you build practical skills in Public Health at Torrens?
We use the flipped classroom approach to learning. Students are provided with current topics, developments, concerns and examples in seminar mode classes and/or online simulated environments. We engage students through on campus or online seminar mode classes, with group discussions facilitated by a public health academic who is also a practitioner (facilitator). The examples are real world oriented, current and aimed to build practical skills in students.
What about learning online, how does that work?
Today, we are in a world where technologies have disrupted our learning environments, creating non-traditional learners. We embrace this disruption, as students are oriented towards micro-learning. Simply put, we offer small bite-size information for every topic, rendered through podcasts, short videos and is absorbed easily in less than 5 minutes. These information bites are then discussed in class or via collaborate – our online discussion platforms. Students can access this from anywhere, through their mobile devices, in classrooms as well as anywhere they are connected online.
How is Torrens building context ready graduates in Public Health?
Our classes are purposefully kept small to enable peer participation. The interactions between the academic who is also a public health practitioner and ethnically diverse student groups bring in the current public health concerns and examples from real life, in the current context. This creates better awareness amongst students. While the Australian context is highlighted in many of the courses, we scale up the knowledge gradually to the global environmental issues and community health issues globally.
“We enable industry-based internships or research-based careers after successful completion of a master’s program through our industry associations and global partnerships.”
What is in the future for Public Health at Torrens?
We have future-oriented courses embedded in our programs. For example, Public Health Informatics is a course that provides students with tools and techniques in informatics as applicable to enhancing public health. These include mobile IoT to wearable technologies that enable health monitoring while you are at work or play to telehealth initiatives, all at the cutting edge of innovation tomorrow.
How about Research at Torrens in Public Health?
Research in Public Health at Torrens is poised to build smart healthy communities, focused on building not only a healthier Australia but also participating in enhancing global health.
We have the Public Health Information Development Unit established by Australian Government housed in Torrens, committed to the provision of a broad range of health and its determinants across the lifespan.
And we have a team of world-class applied public health practitioners with well-established expertise in epidemiology, biotechnology, social determinants of health, Health Policy and Advocacy, environment, data science, nursing and public health informatics.
What is your expertise? What are you working on?
My expertise is in public health informatics and data science. I am a nominated expert group member for “Space and Global Health” – a group that is a consortium of space agencies around the world, WHO and multi-country public health agencies, that reports to the UN on global health concerns / potential solutions with technology innovations. My current projects are in building smart healthy cities using mIoT integration, artificial intelligence and blockchain to name a few. We look at any individual living a longer, happy, healthy life leveraging technologies and social innovations. I am partnering with colleagues in Canada and Australia on this venture, as we involve urban environments/partnerships of communities, in both nations. There is strong support of UN, Public Health Agencies in both countries as well as health informatics (digital health) profession.
So, coming back to the question – What is in it for a student?
You become a self-aware, context-aware, public health practitioner by the time you complete the master’s degree in Public Health. In effect, you become an industry ready professional, ready to take on local and global public health commitments. If you are focused on research, it opens pathways for you to contribute to the field and globally, working with renowned experts.
Where does it take a student in terms of a career?
Torrens enables internships in public health practice. First, we offer pathways through capstone projects in the field. Many students undertake applied projects in the community health area, advocacy, mental health and telehealth areas currently.
Students are assisted for internships in community health centres, hospitals, rehabilitation centres, cancer care, non-government organisations, not-for-profit sector, advocacy organisations or government. They may be medical practitioners, social workers, nurses, paramedics, health technologists, allied health workers, data scientists and researchers. Armed with a public health degree, they will continue to use their primary skills in the respective professions, in fostering public health.
We enable industry-based internships or research-based careers after successful completion of a master’s program through our industry associations and global partnerships.
Explore all of our Public Health courses here
If you would like to know more about Chandana, read “Making waves in the Public Health sphere – Dr Chandana Unnithan, here.