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UAlbany Unveils New Online Healthcare Courses Aimed at Building New York’s Workforce

“Open SUNY” grants to schools of Public Health and Social Welfare will aid communities and New York’s economy.

New online courses will extend the undergraduate field placement program in social work and add a healthcare analytics track in public health to regions of New York targeted for workforce growth.

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 8, 2014) — The University at Albany is creating new online courses in healthcare for students and professionals, thanks to “Open SUNY” grants from New York State designed to aid the state’s economy in key industries.

In what may be the first program of its kind in the nation, UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare (SSW) will extend its undergraduate field placement program in social work to students in diverse upstate New York State communities. The program will be part of a series of online and blended (online plus classroom work) courses designed to meet the health and behavioral health needs of upstate individuals, families and communities.

The University’s School of Public Health (SPH) will create short courses focused on healthcare analytics to support continuing education for healthcare practitioners.

The grants are part of $7 million in awards given out in the second year of the State University of New York High Needs Program, or Open SUNY, which aims to support workforce development in fields projecting substantial growth. Two other UAlbany programs created last year through the first round of Open SUNY funding, in computer engineering and information technology, also received continuation grants for 2014-15.

New Social Welfare Opportunities

Through its grant, SSW will convert many of its core courses required for the social work major to the online and blended variety.

“This Open SUNY project became part of Governor Cuomo and Chancellor Zimpher’s high impact strategy for community service and workforce development, when they included social work as a high-needs discipline upstate,” said SSW associate professor and Baccalaureate Director Blanca Ramos, a leader in social work practice. “We will be offering opportunities to upstate New York students who would otherwise not have the chance to acquire this social work degree.”

Katharine Briar-Lawson, dean of SSW, said the new online and blended courses come at a time when the well-being of people in remote areas is a growing issue, impacting mental health and health, aging, poverty and other issues.

“Areas that haven’t even seen trained social workers, especially in rural parts of the state, will now have them,” said Briar-Lawson. “This one-year grant will now be sustained by the University, in partnership with our School, over the years to come.”

Tackling Public Health Data

The School of Public Health, through its Center for Public Health Continuing Education (CPHCE), has built a popular curriculum in data analytics in areas such as public health program development and evaluation, field epidemiology, and economic analysis, with a combined enrollments of 4,210 in 2013-2014. This year, new short courses made possible through Open SUNY will include information technology and biostatistics, with additional courses planned in epidemiology and economics.  

The short courses in SPH offer a healthcare analytics options for professionals seeking skills in more efficient and effective use of data for public health and healthcare resource planning. “Employers of healthcare analysts and planners indicate strong need for this training,” said Diane Dewar, SPH associate professor in UAlbany's Department of Health Policy, Management, and Behavior.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected salaries for such professionals to increase by 15 percent during 2010-2020. Those trained in healthcare resource planning can also move into administration positions, where 2010-2020 salaries were forecast to rise by 22 percent.

Workforce areas targeted by Open SUNY take into account New York’s needs by region and were are determined by the Department of Labor (DOL) and Empire State Development. DOL estimates that, over the next 10 years, New York will need approximately 18,550 new healthcare practitioners and health technicians.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.