JOHNSON CITY – The Tennessee Institute of Public Health (TNIPH), a statewide partnership of public and private health-related organizations created to improve the overall health status of Tennesseans, will now be managed by East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health.
At its quarterly meeting Thursday, Nov. 19, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) supported the transfer of management of TNIPH to ETSU, which has the only accredited College of Public Health in Tennessee.
The organization has been under THEC direction since it was created as a way to identify health issues of concern to the state and to help devise solutions to those problems. Dr. Richard Rhoda, executive director of THEC, said the board of directors agreed the resources available at ETSU’s College of Public Health will move the institute forward and help TNIPH meet its mission of fostering measurable improvements in the health and wellness of all Tennesseans.
“We believe that a vibrant, comprehensive Institute of Public Health will help Tennessee achieve the challenging task of improving our state’s health statistics,” Rhoda said. “We are very pleased the Tennessee Higher Education Commission was able to play a major role in the creation of the institute, and we’re excited that the ETSU College of Public Health has agreed to provide the management infrastructure to carry it forward to the next level.”
TNIPH membership and the board of directors will continue to include representatives from all areas of the state, from both the public and private sectors. ETSU President Dr. Paul E. Stanton Jr. said the university will work diligently with educational institutions and health care partners throughout Tennessee to make a difference.
“We appreciate the confidence the Tennessee Higher Education Commission is placing in ETSU in general and our newly accredited College of Public Health in particular,” Stanton said. “Improving the health of each and every Tennessean is a goal we all share, and we applaud THEC for the decision to locate the institute here as a way to maximize its effectiveness.”
The Tennessee Institute of Public Health was formed at a time when Tennessee was languishing – and still languishes – in U.S. health statistics. Tennessee is ranked 44th among all states in overall health, and partners in the institute see this cooperative as a means of changing that, said Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of ETSU’s College of Public Health.
“I think the key concept is that the institute brings together the right groups of people on the public side and the private side who are committed to making serious change,” said Wykoff, who will serve as interim director of TNIPH. “We’ll rely heavily on the professional staff here at the college as well as our counterparts at sister institutions across the state to make the institute more relevant than ever.
“We’re eager to move forward and make progress on some of the most pressing issues facing our state, and I would even contend that improving public health is our most pressing issue. The strength or weakness of a state’s overall health status goes a long way toward determining where that state is headed in terms of quality of life, economic strength and future growth.”