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Ciência & Saúde Coletiva

Print version ISSN 1413-8123

Abstract

FEE, Elizabeth. Divorce between theory and practice: the system of public health training in the United States. Ciênc. saúde coletiva [online]. 2008, vol.13, n.3, pp. 841-851. ISSN 1413-8123.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1413-81232008000300007.

Many analysts have complained about the severe disconnect between public health as it is taught in schools of public health and public health as it is practiced in health departments. At least in the United States, few faculty members teaching in schools of public health have ever worked in public health departments. By the same token, few of those working in public health departments have degrees from schools of public health; most receive on-the-job training. This history traces the roots of this disconnect or "divorce between theory and practice." It finds that the 1930s were the prime years of community-based public health education, when the pressure of the Depression and the funding newly made available from the federal government by New Deal legislation encouraged practical training programs linked to local communities and health departments. The "divorce" began in the post-war period as an unintended consequence of the system for funding medical education and research at a time of general unpopularity of public health during the McCarthy era. Schools of public health were generally ignored in the 1950s and they began to adapt the strategy that continues today, of using research grants, primarily from the National Institutes of Health, to grow their faculty and facilities.

Keywords : Education; Public health; Practice; History; United States.

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