Public health majors focus on a variety of issues, from preventing disease to advocating for social justice. They keep communities healthy, protect workers, prevent pandemics and address environmental hazards.
A bachelor’s degree in public health may be the first step toward a master’s in public health (MPH). It can prepare you for a career as a researcher or policymaker, or you may choose to pursue a PhD in the field.
What is Public Health?
Public health is a field that deals with the prevention of disease and prolonging life. It's a broad and diverse area of study, with many different career paths to choose from.
For example, epidemiologists look at the factors that lead to health issues in a population and use those findings to create policies and programs that address these problems.
There are several options for pursuing a degree in public health, including a bachelor's, master's or doctorate. Online and hybrid (online plus on-campus) programs are also available, making it easy to fit a public health degree into your schedule.
What is Epidemiology?
Epidemiology is the study of how, when and why diseases occur in populations. It involves identifying the causes and prevention of disease in order to advance medical research, public health policy and control.
To do this, epidemiologists use scientific methods such as descriptive, analytic and experimental approaches. They also incorporate experience, clinical judgment and understanding of local conditions.
Unlike physicians who focus on individual patients, epidemiologists work to improve the collective health of communities. They are the "doctor of the masses" who use statistics, mathematical and biological models and scientific knowledge to determine appropriate public health measures to control and prevent illness and disease.
What is Biostatistics?
Biostatistics is the study of scientific data and how to use it to make inferences that can help improve public health. The field is a vital part of medical research, clinical trials and epidemiology.
Biostatistical findings can provide clues about how diseases like cancer, diabetes and other conditions originate or spread. It can also help physicians understand the complexities of patient care and offer more tailored treatment plans.
Biostatistics has also been used to investigate the effects of different environmental factors on a population’s health. These studies can provide valuable insight into how air pollution, water contamination and other factors may impact a local population’s well-being.
What is Health Education?
Health education is the development and implementation of individual, group, institutional, community and systemic strategies to improve knowledge, attitudes, skills and behavior in order to promote health. It draws on the biological, environmental, psychological, physical and medical sciences to prevent disease, disability and premature death.
School-based health education helps adolescents acquire functional health knowledge and strengthens their attitudes, beliefs and practice skills needed to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors throughout their lives. It can help reduce youth smoking, unhealthy eating habits and drug use.
Health educators work in a wide variety of settings, including schools and universities, hospitals and clinics, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. They identify needs, advocate and do community organizing, teach whole courses or individual classes, develop mass media campaigns, train peer educators, counselors and advocates, and conduct research and grant writing.
What is Environmental Health?
Environmental health is the field of public health that addresses the relationships between people and their environment. It includes issues such as air pollution, water quality, climate change, and disease-causing microbes.
A healthy environment helps us stay strong and healthy, while a toxic one can contribute to serious illnesses. Toxic chemicals, poor water and sanitation, and air pollution are all major concerns.
The field of environmental health involves a number of different disciplines, including epidemiology, toxicology, exposure science, and environmental engineering. They work together to ensure the safety of humans and the environment. This can include identifying the risks of specific chemical exposures, implementing policies to minimize those risks, and promoting safe use of products and environments.
What is Public Health Communication?
Public health communication is a strategic approach to support and improve population health. It encompasses a wide range of methods to keep people informed about their health, influence their behavior, and change social norms.
In addition, effective health communication is crucial for addressing emergencies such as COVID-19 and natural disasters. It allows public health officials to minimize damage and prevent widespread illness and disease.
Besser and Koplan advise messengers to use simple, clear language that is easy to understand. They also urge public health professionals to lean on data that can be visualized to convey meaning.