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University of Colorado Denver


Capstone Experience

Contributing to public health in our community

For MPH students the culminating academic experience for their program is a Masters Project (or publishable paper) that benefits that community or a particular target population. Projects must contribute meaningfully to the current body of knowledge in the field and may include creating a program plan, program evaluation, or policy initiative.

The project is often connected to the student's Practice-Based Learning by addressing a need identified by the host site. The project or paper will relate to a student's academic goals and professional interests, as well as demonstrate the student's ability to work independently at the master's level.

The final products are a professional oral and poster presentation at the CSPH Public Health Forum, and a paper addressing the student's experience. Students earn their Capstone Experience credits through their Masters Project. Assigned faculty members and site preceptors provide ongoing support and guidance to students during the project. At the end of each semester students present their work at the Public Health Forum.

Download more information | Capstone Experience Guidelines | Capstone Project Proposal​

Previous Epidemiology Projects:
"Health disparities in Colorado: What can we learn from Geographic Information Systems?"

Katherine VonRueden - MPH, Epidemiology 2010

Collectively, health disparities refer to observed clinically and statistically significant differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of diseases, health conditions, or outcomes that exist among specific population groups. The application of Geographic Information Systems to the field of public health is relatively new.  Katherine developed a hypothesis-generating tool to be used to facilitate analysis of geographic similarities and disparities in social determinants of health, risk factors, disease incidence, and mortality rates throughout Colorado. She found that GIS maps displaying existing Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data show racial distribution, social determinants of health, risk factors, disease incidence, and mortality rates for various measures on a county level. The project provided a valuable tool for facilitating comparison of geographic similarities, classifying recurrent patterns, guiding decision-making capabilities, and informing resource allocation efforts.

"Health behaviors associated with overweight/obesity in children"

Sara Deakyne - MPH, Epidemiology 2009

The 9Health Fair In The Classroom program is a one day health education fair in approximately 70 schools across Colorado. The program personnel aim to improve their program by addressing health behaviors associated with overweight/obesity. The Child Health Survey is an addition to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and is administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The target population of this survey is children 1 to 14 years old. This study aimed to identify modifiable behaviors that are associated with overweight/obesity in children 5 to 14 years old in Colorado. Sara's research concluded that TV watching is associated with overweight/obesity independent of fast food consumption and lack of fruit consumption after adjusting for age, sex and race/ethnicity. Fast food consumption and lack of fruit consumption were not associated with overweight/obesity independent of each other and TV watching.

"Potential Inorganic Arsenic Exposure from Geogenic Contributions to Airborne Particulate Matter in Arid Rural Areas"

Suzette A. Mormon, MPH Epidemiology

Adverse health effects from exposure to airborne particulate matter have been typically studied in urban settings examining anthropogenic input. Fewer studies have examined health responses to particulate matter contributions from rural non-agricultural dust sources. These geogenic sources, primarily composed of mineral dusts, may be especially important to public health on a regional scale. This study aimed to elucidate the contribution of geogenic dust to ambient particulate matter in an arid rural area and assess the potential for adverse health effects in nearby communities. Suzette found that the proximity of the dust source, particle size composition and appreciable arsenic suggest that nearby communities may be at risk for exposure to arsenic, a known carcinogen that is also associated with cardiovascular disease.

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