We propose to launch a groundbreaking program for systematic training of public health students on the frameworks, evidence base, and implications of religion/spirituality (R/S) for public health. In contrast to fields such as medicine and psychology, public health attention to R/S factors is severely lagging, with most masters-level (MPH) and doctoral-level (DrPH and PhD) students likely graduating without any exposure to the 3000+ empirical studies documenting favorable R/S-health relations. We build on momentum from our recent Templeton-funded projects on coverage of R/S in public health, building especially on a key output from those projects, a forthcoming R/S and public health edited volume (Oman, in press, expected by 25 March 2018), which provides empirical reviews of R/S-health literature from the perspective of nearly a dozen major public health subfields.
In the proposed project, the project leader (D. Oman) will coordinate a weekly integrative seminar and other activities. Each year, three predoctoral trainees (doctoral students in public health) will be enrolled in the traineeship and supported in addressing R/S factors in their dissertation work. Trainees will receive stipend support for a two year period or the duration of the project (9 total trainees). The project co-leader (S. L. Syme) founded the field of social epidemiology and directed the longest-running training grant in NIH history. The present effort will produce key future public health leaders, and will reflect the unique systematic, evidence-based, and comprehensive (addressing all major public health subfields) approach that has emerged in recent years at Berkeley. Once launched, we intend to obtain funding from additional sources (e.g. National Institutes of Health) to permit continuation and expansion of training efforts focused on religion/spirituality and public health.