Health - defined holistically as physical, psychological, social, and spiritual well-being - is a focus of worldwide attention, and will certainly remain so throughout the early 21st Century. Effectively using scientific and social resources to maintain a healthy citizenry is vital for stable and productive societies. Thus, public educational institutions have a responsibility to contribute to this undertaking; SMSU will continue to embrace this responsibility by highlighting health as a mission theme.
The Springfield metropolitan setting is fortuitous for such a focus. The city has two of the five largest hospital systems in the state which between them have approximately 1.5 million visits annually. Medical technology available in the community is equivalent to anything available elsewhere in Missouri. Skilled practitioners in virtually all specialties are located in the Springfield metropolitan area, and there is a well-developed network of mental health and human service agencies.
At the same time, southwest Missouri includes numerous rural communities in which access to effective health and social services needs to be enhanced. There also is a growing population of migrant (often non-English-speaking) workers for whom access to quality health care is a significant challenge. Such a context clearly supports and requires a focused effort in health education and research (broadly defined to include preparation for mental health and human service professions). SMSU is prepared to be the unit which coordinates Missouri's efforts in this arena.
SMSU's location also enables collaboration. SMSU already has strong relationships with key health care and human service providers in Springfield. The university intends to build on these relationships through initiatives such as the Ozarks Public Health Institute (OPHI) which will bring campus expertise together with citizens in communities throughout the Ozarks to address pressing public health concerns. The OPHI, as well as other campus-community partnerships, will enhance programs in which students acquire expertise through rigorous classroom instruction complemented by supervised clinical experience.
The university brings a wide array of disciplines to bear on its health focus. There is a growing understanding that health is affected by an interplay of physical, psychological and social forces. To that understanding, the university brings strong faculties in the natural and social sciences, as well as in applied areas, including biomedical sciences, communication sciences and disorders, human development, psychology, social work, gerontology, nursing, sports medicine/athletic training, medical technology, radiography, dietetics, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, physician assistant studies, and therapeutic recreation.
Contemporary perspectives on health include growing emphasis upon wellness and recreation programs which seek to preserve and promote health rather than to recover it after loss. Optimizing health in a complex society challenges our best thinking: issues of justice and equity call for creative problem solving to insure that all have access to effective health services. The appropriate convergence of the public affairs and health themes in the metropolitan conversation is illustrated in this policy issue.
Health also is an issue in schools, in the home, and in the workplace, where health problems can significantly interfere with productivity and optimal development. The opportunity to develop site-based health programs and to prepare professionals with the necessary credentials illustrates again the fortuitous convergence of university mission themes - health, professional education, and business and economic development. The projected growth of the biotechnology and tourism industries in Missouri also presents an opportunity for SMSU to contribute through the intersection of the health and business and economic development mission themes.
The demand for a broad range of health professionals will increase in southwest Missouri. The increasing numbers of elderly residents and the influx of retirement age citizens, a burgeoning entertainment and recreation industry, and a sound economic base have contributed to the area growth rate - now among the highest in the state. The university accepts the challenge to provide high-quality health programs to the region.
Selected University assets to support the health care theme
- SMSU now has a full complement of allied health programs that have received or are seeking specialized accreditation. Specifically, SMSU has received accreditation in nurse anesthesia, dietetics, communication sciences and disorders, physical education, nursing, recreation and leisure studies, social work, and sports medicine/athletic training. In addition, SMSU has received candidacy status for its Master in Physical Therapy program and provisional accreditation for its Master in Physician Assistant Studies program. Students are currently enrolled in both of these programs, and SMSU is working toward full accreditation status for both programs by 2003, if not sooner.
- SMSU has well-developed undergraduate programs in nursing, social work, biomedical sciences, allied health disciplines (communication sciences and disorders, dietetics, radiologic technology, respiratory therapy, medical technology, sports medicine and athletic training), gerontology, psychology, health education, wellness, and therapeutic recreation.
- The university offers strong undergraduate preparation in the liberal arts and sciences, which provides an essential foundation for advanced study in health-related disciplines.
- SMSU has strong graduate programs in communication sciences and disorders, cell and molecular biology, advanced-practice nursing, public health, physician assistant studies, physical therapy, social work, and psychology. Faculty members and graduate students in these programs collaborate with community practitioners in research and practice projects.
- Active continuing health professional education programs, that include national certifications, are available through the College of Continuing Education and the Extended University. For example, that college is an approved continuing education provider for the Missouri Board of Nursing Home Administration, the American Nurse Credentialing Board, the Missouri Substance Abuse Counselors Certification Board, the National Association of Activity Professionals, and an approved site for nursing exam preparation. Active continuing education partnerships have been developed with St. John's Regional Health Center, Cox Medical Centers, Hospice of Southwest Missouri, Lakes Country Rehabilitation, the Missouri Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, and many other health agencies and organizations. Certificate programs are provided for dietary managers, dietitian assistants, nursing home administrators, and victim service providers.
- Community advisory committees are in place for SMSU's health-related programs.
- The university operates a speech-language and hearing clinic, a sports medicine clinic, and a learning diagnostic clinic to serve the community while providing training opportunities for students. Similarly the university's infant-toddler laboratory and child development laboratory provide both child care services and learning opportunities.
- Promoting health and wellness for students, faculty and staff is a university priority through the Taylor Health and Wellness Center. A full range of programs are advocated to provide lifelong benefits to the entire campus community.