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Short bouts of stairclimbing throughout the day can boost health

The findings, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, suggest that virtually anyone can improve their fitness, anywhere, any time.

“The findings make it even easier for people to incorporate ‘exercise snacks’ into their day,” says Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and senior author on the study.

“Those who work in office towers or live in apartment buildings can vigorously climb a few flights of stairs in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening and know they are getting an effective workout.”

Previous studies had shown that brief bouts of vigorous exercise, or sprint interval training (SIT), are effective when performed as a single session, with a few minutes of recovery between the intense bursts, requiring a total time commitment of 10 minutes or so.

For this study, researchers set out to determine if SIT exercise snacks, or vigorous bouts of stairclimbing performed as single sprints spread throughout the day would be sufficient enough to improve cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), an important healthy marker that is linked to longevity and cardiovascular disease risk.

One group of sedentary young adults vigorously climbed a three-flight stairwell, three times per day, separated by one to four hours of recovery. They repeated the protocol three times each week over the course of six weeks. The researchers compared the change in their fitness to a control group which did not exercise.

“We know that sprint interval training works, but we were a bit surprised to see that the stair snacking approach was also effective,” says Jonathan Little, assistant professor at UBC’s Okanagan campus and study co-author. “Vigorously climbing a few flights of stairs on your coffee or bathroom break during the day seems to be enough to boost fitness in people who are otherwise sedentary.”

In addition to being more fit, the stair climbers were also stronger compared to their sedentary counterparts at the end of the study, and generated more power during a maximal cycling test.

In future, researchers hope to investigate different exercise snacking protocols with varying recovery times, and the effect on other health-related indicators such as blood pressure and glycemic control.

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KPC Group offers $610M for four Verity Health hospitals

KPC Group offered a $610 million bid to purchase four hospitals owned by bankrupt California health system Verity Health.

Verity filed a motion Thursday in Los Angeles bankruptcy court to implement a public auction where other buyers could outbid KPC for Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, Seton Medical Center in Daly City and Seton Coastside in Moss Beach. The winning bid is subject to the approval of the court and the California attorney general, depending on the buyer.

“Verity has remained committed to finding the right buyer to provide uninterrupted service and operations for all employees, physicians and patients, and we will continue that commitment as this process advances,” Rich Adcock, CEO of Verity Health, said in prepared remarks. KPC pledged to keep current employees.

KPC Group, which is the parent company of KPC Healthcare that operates seven hospitals in Southern California, would pay $420 million for St. Francis, $120 million for St. Vincent and $70 million allocated for Seton Medical Center and Seton Coastside, according to bankruptcy filings.

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Scientists reveal ‘ideal diet’ for peoples’ and planet’s health

LONDON Scientists have unveiled what they say is an ideal diet for the health of the planet and its people – including a doubling of consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes, and a halving of meat and sugar intake.

If the world followed the “Planetary Health” diet, the researchers said, more than 11 million premature deaths could be prevented each year, while greenhouse gas emissions would be cut and more land, water and biodiversity would be preserved.

“The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong,” said Tim Lang, a professor at Britain’s University of London who co-led the research.

Feeding a growing population of 10 billion people by 2050 with a healthy, sustainable diet will be impossible without transforming eating habits, improving food production and reducing food waste, he said. “We need a significant overhaul, changing the global food system on a scale not seen before.”

Many life-threatening chronic diseases are linked to poor diets, including obesity, diabetes, malnutrition and several types of cancer. The researchers said unhealthy diets currently cause more death and disease worldwide than unsafe sex, alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined.

The proposed planetary diet is the result of a three-year project commissioned by The Lancet health journal and involving 37 specialists from 16 countries.

It says global average consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar should be cut by 50 percent, while consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes should double.

For individual regions, this could mean even more dramatic changes: People in North America, for example, eat almost 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, while people in South Asia eat only half the amount suggested by the planetary diet.

Meeting the targets for starchy vegetables such as potatoes and cassava would need big changes in sub-Saharan Africa, where people on average eat 7.5 times the suggested amount.

Presenting the diet at a briefing on Wednesday, the researchers said they acknowledged it was very ambitious to hope to get everyone in the world to adopt it, not least because there is vast global inequality of access to food.

“More than 800 million people have insufficient food, while many more consume an unhealthy diet that contributes to premature death and disease,” said Walter Willett of Harvard University in the United States.

“If we can’t quite make it, it’s better to try and get as close as we can,” he said.

Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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3 ways Trump could disrupt health care for the better

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

Peter Hilsenrath, University of the Pacific and David Wyant, Belmont University

(THE CONVERSATION) Since his winning presidential campaign, Donald Trump has beenrepeatedly billed as a disrupter. From trade and foreign policy to immigration, Trump has consistently tried to shake up the status quo.

As experts in health care management and policy, we believe the president should now focus his talent for disruption in our sector.

And unlike the issue of immigration, there is widespreadbipartisan appreciation of the crisis in health care, with bloated costs and an industry that fiercely resists change.

Why health care needs disrupting

While the growth of health care costs has been relatively muted in recent years, they are still cripplingly high and pose a threat to the entire economy.

Health care now accounts for about 18 percent of the economy – up from about 13 percent two decades ago – and is expected to make up about a fifth of the U.S. gross domestic product by 2026. The United States spends more on health care than any other country.

Yet Americans have little to show for it. U.S. life expectancy at birth, for example, is lower than 11 other high-income countries including Japan, Germany and the U.K. At the same time, infant mortality is the highest.

In addition, despite the mitigating impact of the Affordable Care Act, 28.3 million remained uninsured in 2018.

Furthermore, rising health care costs crowd out other consumer spending, which has the potential to erode Americans’ standard of living.

Here are three ways Republicans and Democrats can come together to disrupt the health sector to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

1. Let nurses and pharmacists do more

One of the key drivers of rising health care spending is the high cost of labor.

And one reason for that is state laws and regulations control what medical professionals can and cannot do in a way that requires high-paid physicians to perform certain duties or make medical decisions that nurses, pharmacists and others with more modest salaries could easily do. While the intent may be to ensure quality, the end result of this ring fencing in our view is that it protects certain groups – including nurses and others – from competition. It also ties the hands of health care managers seeking to improve efficiency.

For example, state scope of practice rules generally restrict prescribing medications to physicians – even though others such as nurse practitioners and pharmacists are fully qualified to do this in most cases. Similarly, ophthalmologists rather than optometrists are primarily allowed to prescribe eye medication, while dental hygienists require the supervision of a dentist.

And as for the impact on quality, a 2013 study showed that the quality, safety and effectiveness of care is similar between less costly nurse practitioners and more costly physicians.

To change this, Trump could direct federal regulators to craft guidelines that greatly expand the scope of what nurses, pharmacists, hygienists and the like can do, and then have Medicare and Medicaid make payments to health plans, hospitals and states contingent on compliance with those guidelines.

Increasing competition and letting less well-paid health care professionals handle more of these duties and decisions should help contain and possibly even lower costs.

2. End the monopoly on drugs

Another major culprit behind out-of-control health care inflation is high prescription drug prices, especially for patented medicines. Most prescriptions are for generic products that are commonly inexpensive, but new drugs often command eye-popping prices.

Studies show Americans pay at least three times more for drugs than residents of other high-income countries. And a quarter of Americans who take a prescription drug say they skip doses or take fewer pills than they should because of the high cost.

Pharmaceutical firms can charge such high prices for new drugs because patents give them monopoly power for years. Moreover, insurers have been willing to pay.

The Trump administration has already made an important if narrow move to remedy this by directing that Medicare Part B use international reference prices in some cases when reimbursing pharmaceutical companies. That is, the program would pay the average price of a drug in a basket of countries, which is usually lower than prices in the U.S. A recent government study of the impact estimated the program would have saved more than $8 billion had reference pricing been used in 2016.

But it could do more, particularly as there is significant bipartisan interest in the issue.

An even bolder approach would involve reforming the patent system underpinning biomedical research. Currently the patent system provides incentives for biomedical research, with the potential to reap enormous profits. A more efficient way to finance groundbreaking research in our view would be to put a tax on the sale of prescription drugs and use the proceeds to fund research on new ones.

Pharmaceutical and other biomedical companies would compete for those grants – making the decision over what types of drugs to develop a social decision rather than a private one – and any drug they develop with the money would be patent-free. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, for one, has argued in favor of an approach similar to this.

In our view, this would drastically reduce prices.

3. Put consumers in the driver’s seat

A third problem that leads to high health care spending is the lack of consumer control.

Normally, when someone wants to buy something – be it groceries or a car – a consumer looks around in stores or online and compares prices to make an informed choice about what works best given her needs and budget.

Health care does not conform to this model. Information is asymmetric —- which means one side knows more than the other —- and consumers tend to defer to their providers. Moreover, insurance renders consumers insensitive to prices with little incentive to shop. Cost containment breaks down if shoppers cannot obtain prices.

Trump could empower consumers by aggressively pushing for greater standardization and use of technology in health care. This could include giving consumers more control of their health records in the cloud and requiring insurers and providers to give them more information about prices and the quality of competing options. And as with occupational control, the administration could condition Medicare and Medicaid payments on following its standards.

Knowledge that all providers have ready access to all your medical information will likely encourage switching to lower cost providers. And just as giving consumers more control led to significant innovations, competition and savings in retirement plans, the same thing would happen in health care.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here:

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Security and public health: the interface

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Invest in health for global security and growth, Gates urges donors

LONDON (Reuters) – Donating billions of dollars to global funds that fight poverty and disease is one of the best investments governments can make to boost security and economic growth, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates said on Thursday.

Ending epidemics of infectious diseases such as malaria, polio, HIV and malaria is proving tough, they said, but dramatic progress made by global aid mechanisms recent decades means the world’s people are now healthier and more productive.

“The data has been really striking,” Melinda Gates told reporters on a teleconference.

She cited figures from the World Health Organization and others showing that since 1990, under-five mortality rates have fallen by more than 50 percent, and deaths due to infectious diseases like HIV, malaria and measles have also halved.

“A child born today is half as likely to die before the age of five, compared to if she was born in 2000,” Melinda Gates said. “The human and economic benefits of this are enormous.”

The multi-billion dollar philanthropic Gates Foundation she co-chairs with her husband Bill, the co-founder of Microsoft, is one of the largest funders of global health program aimed at helping poor people escape disease, poverty and premature death.

The Foundation is seeking to encourage international donor governments such as the United States, Japan, Australia, Germany, Britain and many others to replenish four key global funds in the next 18 months so they can continue their work.

The funds include the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and the GAVI vaccines alliance and the Global Financing Facility for child and maternal health.

Bill Gates said he was optimistic that wealthy donor governments remain committed to funding international aid for poor countries, but added: “We never want to take it for granted, because … just one (donor) country dropping back could cost hundreds of thousands of lives.”

He also said he was concerned that “distraction by domestic issues” may mean the still urgent need for global aid funding may not get the attention it deserves.

“People shouldn’t become complacent,” he said. “We still have a little less than six million children who die under the age of five.”

Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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Chris Pratt Is Doing the Daniel Fast Diet. But Is It Healthy?

The Daniel Fast has been around a long time — since the Old Testament, in fact. But actor Chris Pratt gave it new popularity recently by posting an Instagram story about adopting it as his latest diet.

Pratt described the plan as “21 days of prayer and fasting.” But what does the Daniel Fast actually entail — and is it healthy? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Daniel Fast?

The Daniel Fast is a religiously rooted, short-term eating plan drawn from the Book of Daniel, which appears in the Old Testament. In the story, Daniel decides to avoid the rich, indulgent foods that surround him and have “nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink” for 10 days. (Some translations interpret vegetables as pulses, meaning foods grown from seeds.) A later reference says, “I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.” At the end of the fast, he was healthy, to everyone’s surprise.

Despite its ancient roots, books and online guides to the Daniel Fast have been published since about 2007, when The Daniel Fast blog launched. Most contemporary guides direct followers to eat only food grown from seeds — such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains — for 21 days, and cut out alcohol, caffeine, meat, dairy, sugar, fats and processed foods.

While most plans do not offer specific advice on lotions, they emphasize the importance of sacrificing physical and material comforts for the sake of spiritual growth; many followers also combine the eating style with regular prayer or spiritual practice. It’s popular among Evangelical Christians, and in 2011 a California pastor used the diet to help his evangelical congregation lose a collective 260,000 pounds.

Is the Daniel Fast healthy?

Richard Bloomer, dean of the University of Memphis’ School of Health Studies, has conducted multiple small studies on the Daniel Fast. His research has found that, after just three weeks, the diet can begin to lower risk factors for metabolic and cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce oxidative stress, a physical imbalance that may contribute to chronic disease formation. In general, plant-based diets are associated with health benefits including lower rates of chronic disease and longer lives.

“It just shows, I think, the power of food,” Bloomer says. “There’s a lot of potential health benefits from adopting this approach.”

Bloomer says the Daniel Fast is essentially a vegan diet, but potentially even healthier, since it eliminates processed foods that can come with sugar, fat, salt and preservatives. “We’re not thinking [the health benefits come from] the restriction in animal protein, per se, but more the restriction in all the other stuff that you would find in packaged foods,” as well as the addition of more nutrient-rich foods, he says.

While the Daniel Fast does not explicitly restrict the number of calories followers consume, Bloomer says most people who follow it end up eating fewer by filling up on nutrient- and fiber-dense whole foods instead of meat, dairy and processed products. He says most followers lose five to six pounds over the three weeks and report other benefits like clearer skin, more energy and better focus.

Dr. Wayne Jonas, a family physician and executive director of Samueli Integrative Health Programs at the University of California, Irvine, says this kind of calorie restriction — which is similar to the type in intermittent fasting — is not dangerous, as long as people are still eating enough to feel satiated. “It’s a religious framework around a process that we’ve known about biologically for a long time,” he says.

Jonas explains that periodic calorie restriction can not only spur weight loss but also kickstart cellular and metabolic processes that enhance good health.

“We are over-indulged in calories most of the time in this country, so by doing less of that, you’re going to get health benefits,” Jonas says. “Your body is going to kick in some of the reparative and metabolic processes that we know are associated with a longer life.”

Should you try the Daniel Fast?

Jonas says most fairly healthy people should be able to complete the Daniel Fast with no problems. People with chronic health conditions — especially those that require dietary monitoring, such as diabetes, congestive heart failure and kidney disease — should consult a doctor first.

Anybody who chooses to take on the Daniel Fast should make sure they’re adequately prepared, Bloomer says. While plenty of meals can be created from plant foods, Bloomer says people who typically rely on restaurants, takeout and packaged foods can find it difficult to adjust.

“If people hear about it and read about it, I wouldn’t suggest that they go out and start it the next day,” Bloomer says. “Go shopping, and spend time looking at labels. It’s forced nutrition education.”

Write to Jamie Ducharme at

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Why you shouldn’t follow the health regimes of these ‘peak zen’ people – The Conversation

January is a popular month for newspapers to publish health and fitness articles. One that caught my eye was in The Times and featured health fanatics who have reached “peak zen” (whatever that is). There’s Alex Beer (38), a model, Tim Gray (39), founder of a web marketing company, and Dasha Maximov (30), a freelance business consultant.

Let’s start with Alex Beer’s regime. He likes to drink “slightly pink” raw coconut water the minute he wakes up. Staying hydrated is important, but there’s no reason to choose coconut water over the regular stuff. A recent study found no difference in hydration when using tap water or coconut water.

Between meetings, Beer likes to drink a charcoal shot. Activated charcoal is often marketed as an aid to rid the body of toxins. If you’ve been poisoned, activated charcoal is brilliant, if not, it’s not much use. It doesn’t detox you – that’s what your kidneys are for. The same goes for the digestive enzymes (which Beer also likes to take) – you’ve already got those in your body and they do a pretty good job on their own.

Read more:
Activated charcoal doesn’t detox the body – four reasons you should avoid it

Moving on to Tim Gray. The tablespoon of coconut oil he adds to his coffee will only succeed in making it taste like sun cream. If that’s what you’re after, fill your boots. But coconut oil is a fat, which means it’s got a lot of calories in it. And to make matters worse, it’s high in saturated fats, which even us non-zens tend to eat too much of. Why would you want to have even more?

Read more:
Coconut oil: not quite poisonous, but best treated with caution

Gray says he doesn’t eat “any processed food at all”, which sounds nice if it were possible. Processed foods are those that have undergone changes to make them edible or safe to eat. Milk is pasteurised to get rid of any bugs that could make you sick. That’s processing. And you have to process it again to turn it into cheese or yogurt. If the pork belly that Gray likes to eat for lunch wasn’t processed, it would arrive on his plate as a whole pig, complete with mud and parasites.

Unprocessed pork.
Gareth Weeks/Shutterstock

The snobbery around processed foods is largely unfounded. There’s a difference between processing foods to make them safe and processing foods that makes them unhealthy, such as adding salt to ready meals to make them tastier. Processed foods can be a more affordable way to get your five a day (canned, frozen and dried fruits all count) and they can be a boon for people with arthritis or people who can’t chop veg to prep it for dinner. Frozen peas are not the same as a beefburger and chips.

Not entirely wrong

Not everything that these zen beings have to say should be discounted, however. Dasha Maximov is right about the fact that fish is good for you. And having lots of veg in your diet is also good. But some of Maximov’s claims, such as grains cause inflammation, are potentially harmful. People on gluten-free diets tend to have less fibre, vitamins and minerals. If there isn’t a medical reason to avoid gluten, you risk causing more harm to your health than good.

Read more:
Why gluten-free food is not the healthy option and could increase your risk of diabetes

Gray says that “life is too short not to enjoy the world and the people in it” and I agree with him. But life is also too short to spend it following dodgy nutrition advice that prevents you actually enjoying it, that at best will waste your money and at worst could have long-lasting detrimental effects on your health.

More on evidence-based articles about diets:

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The diet to save lives, the planet and feed us all?

Food marketImage copyright
Getty Images

A diet has been developed that promises to save lives, feed 10 billion people and all without causing catastrophic damage to the planet.

Scientists have been trying to figure out how we are going to feed billions more people in the decades to come.

Their answer – “the planetary health diet” – does not completely banish meat and dairy.

But it requires an enormous shift in what we pile on to our plates and turning to foods that we barely eat.

What changes am I going to have to make?

If you eat meat every day then this is the first biggie. For red meat you’re looking at a burger a week or a large steak a month and that’s your lot.

You can still have a couple of portions of fish and the same of chicken a week, but plants are where the rest of your protein will need to come from. The researchers are recommending nuts and a good helping of legumes (that’s beans, chickpeas and lentils) every day instead.

There’s also a major push on all fruit and veg, which should make up half of every plate of food we eat.

Although there’s a cull on “starchy vegetables” such as the humble potato or cassava which is widely eaten in Africa.

So what is the diet in detail?

If you served it all up this is what you would be allowed each day:

  1. Nuts - 50g a day
  2. Beans, chickpeas, lentils and other legumes – 75g a day
  3. Fish - 28g a day
  4. Eggs - 13g a day (so one and a bit a week)
  5. Meat - 14g a day of red meat and 29g a day of chicken
  6. Carbs - whole grains like bread and rice 232g a day and 50g a day of starchy vegetables
  7. Dairy - 250g – the equivalent of one glass of milk
  8. Vegetables -(300g) and fruit (200g)

The diet has room for 31g of sugar and about 50g worth of oils like olive oil.

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Will it taste awful?

Prof Walter Willet, one of the researchers who is based at Harvard, said no and that after a childhood on a farm eating three portions of red meat a day he was now pretty much in line with the planetary health diet.

“There’s tremendous variety there,” he said. “You can take those foods and put them together in thousands of different ways. We’re not talking about a deprivation diet here, it is healthy eating that is flexible and enjoyable.”

Image copyright
Molly Katzen

Image caption

These are some plates of food that meet the planetary health diet rules

BBC Food: Health recipes and diet information

Is this for real, or just a fantasy?

This plan requires changes to diets in pretty much every corner of the world.

Europe and North America need to cut back massively on red meat, East Asia needs to cut back on fish, Africa on starchy vegetables.

“Humanity has never attempted to change the food system at this scale and this speed,” said Line Gordon, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, at Stockholm University.

“Whether it’s a fantasy or not, a fantasy doesn’t have to be bad… it’s time to dream of a good world,” she says.

Taxes on red meat are one of the many options the researchers say may be necessary to persuade us to switch diets.

Who came up with this?

A group of 37 scientists from around the world were brought together as part of the EAT-Lancet commission.

They’re a mix of experts from farming to climate change to nutrition. They took two years to come up with their findings which have been published in the Lancet.

Why do we need a diet for 10 billion people?

The world population reached seven billion in 2011 and it’s now around 7.7 billion. That figure is expected to reach 10 billion around 2050 and will keep on climbing.

Will it save lives?

The researchers say the diet will prevent about 11 million people dying each year.

That number is largely down to cutting diseases related to unhealthy diets such as heart attacks, strokes and some cancers. These are now the biggest killers in developed countries.

How bad is farming for the planet?

The use of land for growing food and forestry accounts for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s about the same as from electricity and heating, and substantially more than from all the trains, planes and automobiles on the planet.

When you look more closely at the food sector’s environmental impact, you can see that meat and dairy are the major factors. Worldwide, livestock accounts for between 14.5 and 18% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

When it comes to other warming gases, agriculture is one of the leading contributors to both methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

Agriculture is also a significant source of air pollution with ammonia from farms a major cause of fine particulate matter, which the World Health Organization (WHO) says is a threat to health worldwide.

Similarly when it comes to water, agriculture and food productions are one of the biggest threats, consuming 70% of global freshwater sources for irrigation.

So will this diet save the planet?

The researchers’ aim was to feed more people while:

  • minimising greenhouse gas emissions
  • preventing any species going extinct
  • having no expansion of farmland, and
  • preserving water

However, just changing diets is nowhere near enough.

To make the numbers add up, also requires a halving of food waste and an increase in the amount of food produced on current farmland.

Why isn’t meat being banned?

“If we were just minimising greenhouse gases we’d say everyone be vegan,” said Prof Willet.

However, it was unclear whether a vegan diet was the healthiest option, he said.

So what happens now?

The EAT-Lancet Commission is going to take its findings to governments around the world and bodies such as the WHO to see if it can begin to change the way we eat.

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School of Public Health introduces new research-based master’s degree


IU’s School of Public Health is taking applicants for a new master’s of science in environmental and occupational health degree this year. It aims to recruit students interested in laboratory research.

“We saw a need for a research-based degree that would be useful for students,” said M. Margaret Weigel, SPH interim department chair.

One thing setting this degree apart from other master’s programs is the required thesis or research project, Weigel said. The master’s of public health has an internship requirement, but this degree does not.

Weigel said the degree will focus on environmental factors that affect  public health. Occupational health focuses on the health of workers.

“The environment can be chemicals in the environment, or heavy metals, or if you look at things like climate change,” Weigel said. “We also look at things like food systems.”

Occupational health fits inside the large field of environmental health, Weigel said.

In medicine, health is focused on individuals, Weigel said. Public health is more focused on a community’s health.

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