September 21, 2004

Health Education program earns high marks

by Paula M. Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. - - A doctoral program in health education offered by Southern Illinois University Carbondale ranks among the top 50 percent of peer programs at 24 universities across the nation, according to a study published in the American Journal of Health Education.

Results are in the journal's May/June edition, Vol. 35, #3.

SIUC ranks 11th - - in a field of 24 - - and ahead of similar programs at such prestigious universities as Johns Hopkins, Purdue, the University of Florida and the University of Missouri.

"This is indeed welcome news. We are proud of our Health Education Program and its deserved reputation for quality. We have an outstanding faculty who attract quality students," said R. Keith Hillkirk, dean of the SIUC College of Education and Human Services, which houses the program.

David A. Birch is chair and professor of the college's Health Education and Recreation program.

Ratings took seven variables into consideration, three relative to faculty and four related to students, all within a five-year period from January 1997 through December 2001.

In the faculty category, researchers examined scholarly activity based on the number of faculty publications in peer-reviewed journals, the number of faculty-held editorships in health education-related journals and external funding.

When it came to doctoral students, researchers measured students' activities, student/faculty ratios, student support and mentoring/job placement available to students.

Birch points out, however, that seven of the universities in the study offer doctoral degrees through their respective schools of public health, which are known to possess more resources and get special access to federal funding available only to such institutions - - and not the remaining 17 universities in the study.

Birch says he's especially pleased with SIUC's rankings when those seven are removed from the mix.

Among those 17 universities, "We rank first in number of faculty-authored articles published in peer-reviewed academic journals," says Birch, a past-president of the American Association for Health Education.

The study's authors are J. Don Chaney, a visiting assistant professor of health education and James M. Eddy, professor and chair of the health and safety program, both at Texas A&M University, and Thomas W. O'Rourke, a professor in the department of community health at the University of Illinois.

SIUC conferred more than 100 doctoral degrees in health education in the past 15 years.

Graduates may teach and conduct research at the university level or work in health agencies at the local, state and national levels,

Achieving excellence in graduate and professional programs is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.