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COVID-19 pandemic fuels spike in public health majors

The University of Louisville said it has seen a 34% increase in public health students compared to last fall.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — If there's a silver lining in the COVID 19 pandemic, it's the number of people now looking into the public health profession. 

While the number of college applicants hoping to work in the public health field is up about 20% nationwide, the numbers are even bigger at UofL. Student enrollment for undergrads working toward a degree in public health is up 34% from last fall.

It is the largest percentage hike for any bachelors degree at the university this year. School of Public Health and Information Sciences Dean Dr. Craig Blakely said the major shift happened in March, once COVID-19 hit.

Blakely said the undergraduate students are not future doctors and nurses, but instead people working in prevention, detection and policy changes. 

"For example, one of the things we're bringing online next fall that's not even officially on the books yet is a new undergrad track in ethics and social justice, which is coming out of the anti-racism, Breonna Taylor milieu of issues," Blakely said. "So public health, it's trying to create conditions for which people can be healthy."

Locally, UofL students have been a part of the effort to combat COVID-19 as contact tracers where they make phone calls to positive cases and close contacts, providing education and information on up-to-date isolation safety measures and guidelines. 

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