New Post-Master’s Certificate Addresses Policy Responses to Public Health Crises

Community Engagement; Faculty; Policy; Public Health

The Brown School is offering a new Post-Master’s Certificate designed to build skills for understanding, developing, and planning social policies to counter the negative impacts of public health crises on both individuals and communities.

The Post-Master’s Certificate in Social Policy Responses to Public Health Emergencies will take place online over nine weeks from September 16 to November 11, 2020. Applications are due by August 26.

The course will draw from experience and evidence gained from past public health crises, including Ebola, 9-11, and hurricanes, in addition to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Instructors include Sarah Moreland-Russell, Assistant Professor of Practice; and Atia Thurman, Associate Director of the Clark-Fox Policy Institute at the Brown School, with consultation in course development from Mary McKay, Neidorff Family and Centene Corporation Dean of the Brown School.

Through the course of the program, participants will:

  • Review public health response systems;
  • Understand reactive policymaking during crises and its potential harm;
  • Examine breaks in the social system and determine effective policy strategies;
  • Explore the disparities of impact based on race, age, gender and other factors;
  • Consider how cultural forces can affect how individuals and communities understand, react and organize during a crisis; and
  • Identify and use appropriate data to develop proactive policy.

“COVID-19 shed light on a number of ‘bare threads’ in our social support safety net and we felt it was important to build a course that allowed professionals to understand the real world effects of public health crises and methods for mitigating negative consequences,” Moreland-Russell said.

“Policy is ultimately the main string that can pull everything together, and while COVID-19 brought to light many gaps in our support system, it also set the stage for us to develop progressive policy that serves everyone.”

Thurman said the health disparities highlighted by the pandemic became apparent quickly.

“The pandemic caught us all off guard, but the true test of a system is a crisis,” she said. “Everywhere we looked, the systems were failing communities of color and our most vulnerable populations, exposing vast inequities and the sometime invisible impacts of structural racism.”

“What we learned was that when the need was universal, we could easily adopt progressive policies that benefit all, but the distribution of resources is embedded with gross inequities,” she added. She cited the response by the Brown School as offering an inspirational example.

“As an institution of learning, our School leaned into our strengths to offer a host of opportunities that drew from our fields of expertise. It was wonderful to witness how quickly we mobilized throughout the school to create new opportunities for learning.”

Moreland-Russell’s research focuses on health policy analysis and evaluation, as well as the dissemination and implementation of public health policies. Her work has made contributions to the need for local-level policy adoption, strategies for more effective implementation of evidence-based policy, and the evaluation of public health programs. In her role as advisor to the Clark-Fox Policy Institute, Moreland-Russell develops policy curricula and teaches several policy-related courses.

Thurman has extensive experience in communications, public engagement and project management. As a consultant with Vector Communications Corporation, she specialized in planning and facilitating public engagement campaigns for community development, health and human services, and transportation. Thurman also serves on the Clark-Fox Policy Institute’s leadership team, whose work focuses on building the capacity of citizens and communities to create positive change and address social justice through policy engagement.

The program is appropriate for individuals who already hold a master’s degree in any field and who want to expand their knowledge and skills. The certificate would be especially useful for participants who hold a planning or leadership role within government, but holding such a role is not essential. Paced over nine weeks, the program includes a 2-hour Zoom class meeting every Wednesday evening and well as independent work completed weekly. 

Receive more information and apply.