What are the Core Areas of Study for a Public Health Degree?

Public Health Degree programs are important areas of academic inquiry that teach students theoretical approaches to public health problems, and often require them to take the knowledge they learn in the classroom and apply it to real world situations through school-sponsored practicum opportunities. Many public health degrees have specializations within their degree field. Some of the most common specializations are biostatistics and epidemiology, health education, global health, and health policy and administration. For reference to some of the best public health degrees, have a look at the list of The Top 25 Online MPH Programs. Let’s take a closer look at these specializations within the field of public health.

Biostatistics and Epidemiology is a field of study which teaches students to develop and analyze data that tracks how contagious disease spreads throughout populations and specific demographics. Students who specialize in biostatistics and epidemiology should have a strong background in mathematics, and be able to think critically about how to compile meaningful data sets that communicate trends to policy makers and the public at large. Students will become familiar with epidemiological theories like the Kermack-McKendrick theory which is a hypothesis that predicts distribution of infectious disease through a population over time.

Health Education specializations teach students how to effectively communicate principals of health and safety to students or communities. Having academic theories and data inform citizens about practicing healthy daily practices is a difficult task, but when done well can lead to major public health breakthroughs. Students who specialize in Health Education usually become professors, so students will learn how to plan curriculum to effectively convey critical concerns in sexual education, drug use, hygiene, and other areas of health.

Global Health specializations take students beyond their local communities to consider macro-level policy making and cross-cultural cooperation in the field of health. In our increasingly globalized world, diseases can travel from location to location in a variety of ways, between populations with different immunities, and global health professionals are often required to figure out how to quarantine certain populations. Students will also consider how health is affected by economic or cultural circumstances that effect different cultures around the globe. Students will analyze the efforts of the United Nations and their specific agendas, like their 15-year plan to fight extreme poverty and climate change. Students will gain a much different perspective of the world than the one that they are familiar with, becoming well informed and conscientious world citizens.

Health Policy and Administration specializations teach students how to draft legislature and influence politicians to make health-conscious policy decisions. Major political issues such as healthcare are discussed and analyzed in health policy courses, and most graduates end up in the political or legal realm of public health. Students will become familiar with the policies of the World Health Organization and the resolutions that they come up with to ameliorate specific public health concerns. Students will also learn how to navigate the legal process that deals with public and environmental health and safety concerns, so that they can have a beneficial effect on public health in local communities and the world at large.

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