Missoula's Academic Health Department



The purpose of Missoula’s Academic Health Department is to enhance public health education and training, research, and community service by collaborating among  academic and practice spheres. Building on years of organic collaboration, the University of Montana's School of Public and Community Health Sciences (UM-SPCHS) and Missoula Public Health (MPH) entered into a formal partnership agreement in March of 2019, to deliberately advance its mutual aims.  Missoula’s Academic Health Department (AHD) is Montana’s first such partnership fashioned on a national template set forth by the Council on Linkages Between Academic and Public Health Practice and is among over 100 AHD’s nationwide each uniquely tailored to the goals, needs, and resources of the communities they serve.  

Soon after Missoula formalized its AHD and held its inaugural events, the partnership was catalyzed by the onset of the covid pandemic during which some SPCHS faculty served in Missoula’s official incident command structure.  This experience yielded a stronger community response on several fronts particularly in epidemiologic intelligence, risk communication, developing equitable services, and community mobilization.  Not only did the AHD survive the pandemic, academic-to-practice working relationships strengthened  and an eye-opening view of the AHD’s potential emerged.

Missoula’s AHD holds an annual conference at which joint projects of the previous year are featured and links between students, faculty and practitioners are made for the upcoming year.  A broad scope of projects the AHD has taken up include ambient air quality in the context of increasing wildfire smoke exposure, communicating with rural residents, analysis of Montana’s statutes and regulations for delivering essential public health services, Native American health, assessing training needs of the public health workforce, to name a few. Missoula AHD also hosts a weekly public health seminar during the fall and spring semesters.  Interested participants can join in person, remotely, or view the presentation afterwards. 

In keeping with their respective missions and guiding principles, the founding partners, the School of Public and Community Health Sciences, accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, and Missoula Public Health, accredited by the national Public Health Accreditation Board, hold an inclusive view regarding participating agencies and a wide definition of conditions important to the public’s health and worthy of our collective attention.  For more information, please contact Ellen Leahy at ellen.leahy@mso.umt.edu.