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New Ph.D. Fosters Disease Prevention

July 15, 2005

It's estimated that the annual cost of health care in the United States exceeds $1.8 trillion, according to the National Coalition on Health Care based in Washington, D.C. An ounce of prevention may help reduce those costs as well as prolong your life.

Arizona State University's departments of Exercise and Wellness and Nutrition are helping to further foster the idea of disease prevention. The two departments have teamed up to introduce a new interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Physical Activity, Nutrition and Wellness, one of two such Ph.D. programs in the United States.

The Ph.D. is research focused and will look at the use of "prescriptions" for wellness to help prevent or lower the risk of all sorts of diseases, like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity according to Nutrition Professor Carol Johnston.

"The two departments have always collaborated on research and other projects, so establishing this degree was a natural and makes sense," says Johnston. "It is unique because it combines nutrition, exercise and wellness."

The new degree will be the first Ph.D. administered by academic units located at the Polytechnic campus.

The Department of Exercise and Wellness participated in an interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree in Curriculum and Instruction that was administered by the College of Education in Tempe for 16 years.

The new degree incorporates much of what was offered in the Curriculum and Instruction degree, but with the added nutrition component and the focus on disease prevention.

"We expect the program will help foster research and promote healthy lifestyles intended to reduce the social and economic costs of unhealthy living for citizens of Arizona and the nation," says Pamela Swan, Exercise and Wellness professor. "It also allows for both academic areas to bring in doctoral students that will help increase our research productivity."

This degree will appeal to those with an interest in achieving disease prevention through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes. It's tailored for individuals interested in becoming professors at universities or community colleges or individuals who want to work in public or private health-related industries.

ASU's three-year program includes multiple research projects, professional presentations at conferences, papers for peer reviewed journals, and teaching, in addition to the course requirements.

The program is one of the first to be offered in the United States. Baylor University in Texas offers a similar doctorate in exercise, nutrition and preventive health.

While discussions around disease prevention have taken place for decades, it's really just finally emerging as a major area of study, according to Swan.

"With the cost of healthcare skyrocketing, the demand for experienced and well-educated professionals in the prevention area will be great," says Swan. "With the focus on disease prevention, I believe we are on the cutting edge of the future of health and wellness study."

For more information about the program, contact Carol Johnston at (480) 727-1713/ or Pam Swan at (480) 727-1934/ For admission to ASU's graduate programs visit or call (480) 965-6113.