Penn State University's Old Main building is seen at the University Park campus in 2012. The large building features a clock tower at the top center and a series of columns across the front, with more of the building extending to either side. The building is framed with late summer or autumn trees.

University Health Sciences Council

Defining a Strategy and Vision for Health Sciences

The Penn State University Health Sciences Council guides the strategic vision of the diverse biomedical and life science endeavors at the institution.

What Are the Health Sciences?

Health Sciences are a group of disciplines of applied science that deal with human and animal health. Health Sciences include the study of health and the application of that knowledge to improve health, prevent and cure disease and the understanding of how humans and animals function.

Health Sciences include the basic science fields of biology, chemistry, physics and a variety of other multidisciplinary fields including:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Engineering
  • Epidemiology
  • Genetics
  • Nursing
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacy
  • Public Health Sciences
  • Physical Therapy
  • Medicine

Health Sciences Strategic Plan

The UHSC strategic plan was approved in December 2008 and revised in 2015. The plan outlines the vision and mission for the Health Sciences at Penn State and focuses on several overarching goals.

Vision

Promotion of quality of life through personalized health.

Strategic Goals

  • Become a leader in interdisciplinary research on personalized health.
  • Creative innovative, interdisciplinary and inter-professional graduate and post-graduate programs that focus on personalized health.
  • Increase Penn State’s engagement as a partner across the Commonwealth in improving the health of Pennsylvanians.
  • Develop an innovative, multi-pronged, University-wide public health campaign to encourage faculty, staff and students to focus proactively on their own health and wellness.

Rationale/Background

In the next five years, Penn State will harness its formidable set of health-­related resources to position itself to be a leader in personalized health. We define "personalized health" holistically, referring to physical, psychological and behavioral health. At the centerpiece of this vision, is understanding individuals in all their complexity, and the social contexts and physical environments in which they live and work, and leveraging that new knowledge to create innovative programs, policies, products, and practice for research, education, outreach and patient care that will improve health and well-­being.

Several trends point to the importance of personalized health in the decade ahead. Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans will be given increasing responsibility for managing their health; the complexity of health insurance offerings and health care options today requires an educated consumer to make thoughtful decisions and prioritize their own wellness. Likewise, pressures will intensify for health care providers to focus on disease prevention and reduce costly patient readmissions.

Another relevant trend is the aging of the baby boom generation, a dramatic demographic development that has been likened to a "silver tsunami" that will put unprecedented pressure on a fragmented health care system. At the same time, scientific progress in the areas of "omics" (e.g., genomics, metabolomics, the microbiome), smart technology (e.g., sensors, accelerometers), and the analysis of "big data" (e.g., electronic medical records, intensive streams of data from devices, imaging data, social media, etc.) will enable health care providers and prevention scientists to pinpoint disease outbreaks geographically, tailor clinical treatment and health interventions to communities and individuals, potentially leading to more effective and efficient use of resources.

The theme of "personalized health" is broadly applicable but it may be especially relevant for three groups: children, for whom preventing disease offers great potential; older adults, whose health problems collectively put the most pressure on health care resources; and vulnerable groups that may be disadvantaged in terms of access to care, the quality of care available to them, and the health and well-­‐being they ultimately enjoy.

Importantly, a focus on personalized health capitalizes on our highly collaborative, interdisciplinary research environment and builds on recent university investments in key areas such as genomics; infectious disease; real time collection of data on daily experiences, health symptoms, and environmental exposures; health disparities; demography and population health; and big data.