The Harvard School of Public Health will launch a program for business leaders to promote health in their corporate practices in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has dramatically altered the workplace, the school announced Wednesday.
Responding to demand from business executives for increased public health knowledge, the School of Public Health created the Public Health and Business Leadership Certificate program, which is set to start in September.
Faculty spanning the School of Public Health, the Kennedy School, and the Business School will instruct the program, which is designed for mid- to senior-level business executives.
HSPH associate professor Joseph G. Allen, a co-director of the program whose research focuses on how indoor environments affect wellbeing, said Harvard has an obligation to use its institutional resources to help educate business leaders.
“We have a responsibility to launch a program like this to offer training to business leaders looking for the public health background so that they can lead in their own organizations and drive change with a public health lens,” Allen said.
The program will award certificates to a cohort of 20 to 30 business executives who undergo four weekends of training guided by a curriculum that focuses on foundational public health principles, worker health and wellbeing, and global health policy, among other topics.
Though the program intends to conduct its offerings remotely, the final component will take the form of an in-person practicum in which participants will create a project specific to their organization and share their results with Harvard.
The program’s other co-director, Richard B. Siegrist, who is a senior lecturer on health care management at the School of Public Health, said it is important for executives to take an active role in promoting wellbeing among their employees.
“We think about the impact that corporations have on the environment, on worker wellbeing,” Siegrist said. “If they’re not deeply involved, things are not going to change the way they need to change.”
One of the program’s courses will expose business leaders to the history of public health, a foundation on how social factors contribute to health, and an overview of disease prevention practices.
The instructor of that course, Monica L. Wang, who is an adjunct associate professor of health policy and management at HSPH, said a core belief of the program is that a healthy society requires leaders from across industries to work together.
“The goal is that the production of health, and the promotion of health, can’t be shouldered only by the health care system, or only by public health officials,” Wang said. “It really requires moving the needle and working collectively and collaboratively with other sectors.”
Allen added that the program is committed to diversity in its admissions process.
“We’ve put in policies in place to be sure that we’re getting representation across different races, ethnicities, and equal balance by gender and critically across different types of companies,” Allen said.
Siegrist said they hope to expand the current initiative to a two-year degree-granting program within the School of Public Health.
“This is not the last crisis we will face,” Allen said. “What I’ve seen in organizations, big and small, is that they have a gap in terms of training and knowledge and expertise — and that gap is public health.”
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