Public Health

What is Public Health?

Public health is the study of mental, physical, and environmental issues that influence health on the community and population level.  The common goal of public health officials is to "fulfill society's interest in assuring conditions in which people can be healthy" and to improve the quality of life within the society. Public health officials achieve this through disease prevention, and maintenance and promotion of good health within the population.

What do Public Health Officials do?

Public health officials identify and monitor health risks within a population, create public health policies within federal, state and local governments, and ensure equal access to disease prevention services.  They do this by working in a variety of settings including public, private or governmental health organizations at the local, state, national or international levels.  Over the past few decades, public health officials have worked to overcome many public health problems including AIDS, cancers, drug and alcohol-induced illnesses, and premature births, as well as poor diet and exercise habits.


There are several degrees that can be attained in the field of public health.  These include a Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH), Doctor of Public Health (DPH), Master of Health Administration (MHA), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health.  Individuals with these degrees will tend to have a concentration in a subfield of public health including (citing USF's programs): Community and Family Health, Environmental and Occupational Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Global Health, and Health Policy and Management.


  • completion of an undergraduate program with a minimum of 3.0 GPA and a GRE score of 1000 or higher.
  • courses in English, mathematics, statistics, natural and social sciences, and computer science are expected to have been taken, but few specifics are indicated (depends on interest).
  • a written statement of intent and letters of recommendation

Professional school:

  • There are over 100 accredited programs in the US and Canada.  Many use a centralized application service (SOPHAS).
  • There are many joint degrees that include public health (like MD-MPH).
  • MPH programs typically take 2 years to complete if going full time.
  • the basic core courses teach principles of public health and include: epidemiology, biostatistics, health education and administration, survey of human disease, introduction to public health, and environmental health.
  • the programs of study also include practical experience, usually in the form of a research project.

How to find out more about Public Health?