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News Release

New UAlbany Course Tackles Public Health Emergencies in Schools

Contact: Karl Luntta (518) 437-4980

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 11, 2004) -- The Center for Public Health Preparedness at the University at Albany School of Public Health and the School of Education have collaborated to create "Emergency Preparedness in Schools: Prevention, Response, and Recovery," a course to train educators and public health professionals to manage disasters in schools.

The interdisciplinary course, offered for the first time in summer 2004, was in part developed to respond to concerns over terrorism threats to schools, as well as the rising concern among parents and educators over one of the nation's most shocking scenarios: students with weapons. It will cover such topics as legal and ethical issues in emergency preparedness and response, diseases and bioterrorism, natural and industrial disasters, creation of safe and healthy classrooms and schools, and development of comprehensive school crisis plans. It will also cover the specific psychosocial crises of violence and child abuse.

"I am thrilled that UAlbany's School of Public Health and the School of Education are working together on this important project," said Nancy Persily, associate dean in the School of Public Health. "The schools at Ground Zero were confronted with many challenges on September 11 and afterwards. We saw then that preparing administration and teachers adequately for a whole host of crises should be a top priority. And just recently, we saw a crisis in our own community at Columbia High School. It just reinforces the fact that our two schools should work together to respond to these events."

Due to the inherent interdisciplinary nature of public health, a 2002 report from the Institute of Medicine urged the nation's schools of public health to strengthen interaction with other professional schools on campus. The collaboration between UAlbany's schools of public health and education represents a unique alliance focused on combating mounting public health fears in primary and secondary schools. The graduate level course, conceived after the two schools conducted needs assessments, was developed by a planning group of teachers, school administrators, state education officials, state emergency management professionals, and faculty from the schools of education and public health, with input from UAlbany's School of Criminal Justice.

"This new course is designed to help schools meet a multi-faceted problem that can only be solved by tapping a variety of expertise," said Susan Phillips, dean of the School of Education. "Developing the course has been a rich and rewarding collaboration for our faculty, and we are pleased to be able to join our colleagues in the School of Public Health in helping to address a need of our local communities."

"Emergency Preparedness in Schools: Prevention, Response, and Recovery" is a graduate level course open to school officials, public health professionals, parents and those interested. Non-matriculating students may attend the class, which has room for 30. UAlbany educators will offer it on an ongoing basis, eventually taking it online to provide greater accessibility to working teachers and administrators.

UAlbany's Center for Public Health Preparedness, one of two such centers in New York State, improves the capacity of the public health workforce to respond to current and emerging public health threats with a focus on bioterrorism and infectious disease outbreaks.

The course will run June 28-August 6, 2004, and fulfills the Child Abuse and School Violence Prevention requirements for New York State certification. Registration for summer courses at the University at Albany begins on March 30, 2004. For questions regarding course registration, call (518) 442-5052.

The University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in nine degree-granting schools and colleges. The University has launched a $500 million fundraising campaign, the most ambitious in its history, with the goal of placing it among the nation's top 30 public research universities by the end of the decade. For more information about this internationally ranked institution, visit For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit