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College of Public Health receives national award

JOHNSON CITY (Nov. 21, 2017) – A unique program in the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health has received a national award for innovative curriculum.

The 2017 Delta Omega Award for Innovative Public Health Curriculum was presented to Dr. Mike Stoots, professor and undergraduate coordinator in the ETSU College of Public Health, for “Project EARTH: An Innovation in Education and an Education in Innovation,” which he leads at ETSU’s Eastman Valleybrook campus.

Project EARTH (Employing Available Resources to Transform Health) helps to prepare public health graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary to work in almost any environment, especially the kinds of low-resource environments that might exist in rural areas, or following either a natural and man-made disaster.     To this end, students learn to provide clean water, sanitation and shelter, among other skills.  At the same time, students are learning teamwork, problem solving and creative thinking — skills relevant in all worksites. 

Project EARTH is composed of several different parts. The ESSENTIALS course is a semester-long training program for undergraduates, while the seminar course provides comparable experiences for doctoral students. The Niswonger VILLAGE at Valleybrook has recreated actual homes from low-resource areas around the world and is a unique public health simulation lab that can replicate the real-world situations that students might encounter in those settings. The SKILLS (Short-term Knowledge, Immersion Learning and Leadership Skills)experiences provide short-term opportunities for students and members of the general public to learn basic public health skills, while developing teamwork, innovation and creative thinking.  Participants have included high school students and the leadership teams of local hospitals. 

“Public health is what we, as a society do collectively to assure the conditions for people to be healthy. Even in the most abundant environments, this requires public health graduates to have a wide range of skills,” Stoots said. “In a low-resource environment, however, such as following a hurricane or a wildfire, many of the things that are essential to promote health are not available. Through Project EARTH, we prepare a generation of public health leaders with low-resource skills and the self-reliance to take a leadership role when faced with a natural or man-made disaster.”

The Delta Omega Innovative Curriculum Award was created to applaud creative ways to bridge the gap between public health academia and practice.

“ETSU’s curricula was selected as the 2017 award winner because of its highly innovative approach to giving students hands-on experience,” said Allison Foster, Delta Omega National Executive Secretary. “It is truly a stellar example of innovative curriculum.”

A webinar featuring more about ETSU’s curriculum will be held on January 26, 2018. Details on the webinar can be found at For more about Project EARTH, visit

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