Press Release

School of Public Health launches $5 million Kaiser Permanente Public Health Scholars Program

| 12 May 2009

The University of California, Berkeley, announced today (Tuesday, May 12) the Kaiser Permanente Public Health Scholars Program, an ambitious initiative designed to meet the increasing need for highly educated public health workers.

Funded by a $5 million grant from a fund established in 2004 by Kaiser Permanente at the East Bay Community Foundation, the program - to be based in UC Berkeley's School of Public Health - is expected to expand California's public health workforce, with an emphasis on recruiting students from underserved communities and placing them in health departments and other organizations that serve vulnerable populations.

"Kaiser Permanente's generous gift through the East Bay Community Foundation sends a positive signal to the larger Bay Area philanthropic community about the importance of greater investment in public health," said Stephen Shortell, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. "We must increase our capacity to protect and enhance the health of all Californians, particularly those living in our most vulnerable communities."

In a declining economy, this grant increases enrollment, focuses on diversity, and supports graduates going into public health departments and underserved areas to meet society's health needs. Specifically, the funds will be used to provide scholarships that will help recruit top students from underserved populations to the School of Public Health and provide additional teaching support to UC Berkeley faculty.

"After graduating from UC Berkeley, these public health professionals will play an important role in protecting our population's health, and making our environment healthier for everyone," said Raymond J. Baxter, senior vice president for Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy at Kaiser Permanente. "Investing in the training of these future leaders is a critical step toward addressing the growing health challenges in California and the nation."

The recent H1N1 (swine) influenza outbreak, for which there was an increased demand for public health resources, illustrated the need to increase the ranks of professionals in public health throughout California and around the world.

Dr. Barbara Staggers, an alumna of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and director of Adolescent Medicine at Children's Hospital Oakland, said the support for public health professionals will reap rewards in the long run, not just in local communities, but also globally in paving the way for better responses to future challenges such as pandemics.

"Supporting students who will go on to serve these communities, locally and globally, is absolutely critical," Staggers said. "The need for a strong public health infrastructure could not be more obvious than in the recent global response to the influenza outbreak."

The first class of 20 Kaiser Permanente Public Health Scholars will be enrolling this fall at the university.