Community health approved as a primary major

Starting next fall, community health will be offered as a primary major at Tufts, rather than a secondary double major as it is now, according to an Oct. 24 announcement by the Community Health Program.

The change has been in the works for years due to student and faculty demand, according to Community Health Program Director Jennifer Allen.

“There was an overwhelming desire expressed by students in the department who said that having to fulfill another major’s requirements in addition to ours was burdensome and unnecessary,” she said. “It really took them away from what they were passionate about.”

After transferring to Tufts her sophomore year, senior Rebecca Goldberg said she discovered community health as an area of interest where she would have liked to focus on more while at Tufts.

“I love everything about the department,” she said. “It’s my home, and I hope it can be a primary major on my diploma.”

These sentiments are echoed among other students in the program, including sophomore Sophie Maki, a prospective peace and justice studies and community health double major.

“We’re exposed to an idea of health that goes beyond simple medical care and looks at the way society can change to really create a more healthy population,” she said. “We can get rid of social structures that act as barriers to healthcare justice.”

Allen, who said she has been pushing for the program’s approval since she joined Tufts faculty last year, submitted the proposal in late September with support from students, faculty and staff.

The Association of American Universities has already stated that all students should have access to the study of community health,” she said. “Most other liberal arts colleges already have this as an option. So this change is really putting us on par with our peers, especially with [Tufts’] Bachelors to Masters program in Public Health and Health Communications.

Incorporating elements of sociology, biology, psychology, international relations, economics and nutrition, Allen said community health is an interdisciplinary area of study.

“It gives students a very broad set of tools to eliminate inequity,” she said.

Students who select community health as a primary major will have slightly different requirements from those who have been a double major in the subject, according to the Community Health Program’s website. The main changes include two additional required courses — one in research methods and one in global health — which will make the major a total of 12 instead of 10 required credits. The program also is going to eliminate the need to file courses into “clusters,” according to Allen.

“This will give students greater flexibility to focus in on their interests instead of having to define them or categorize them in a certain way,” she said.

According to Allen, the Community Health Program will not encourage upperclassmen who have already chosen an additional course of study to drop the primary major they have been completing.

“[Students have] already invested so much time, and students shouldn’t drop a major they’ve already put a great deal of work into,” she added.