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Public Health

The mission of public health is to fulfill society's interest in assuring healthy conditions for entire populations or communities. This is accomplished through organized, interdisciplinary efforts that address the multiple determinants of health—biological; behavioral; environmental; cultural; social, family and community networks; living and working conditions; etc.—in communities and populations at risk for disease and injury.

The Public Health Major offers a liberal arts degree that provides undergraduates critical thinking skills and a foundation to address health problems faced by human populations. Students learn about the tools that public health professionals use to analyze causes, risk factors and the spread of disease. Students work collaboratively in health education, emerging infectious diseases, access to health care, health care delivery systems, and the impact that personal behavior, society, genetics and the environment have on health outcomes.

What type of education is required?

A two-year undergraduate health sciences program to pursue the major and a public health professional/graduate program is necessary to pursue a career in the field.

Coursework required for most programs

The UW's Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Art in Public Health requires the following prerequisites:

  • Environmental Health 111, Global Health 101, Health Services 100 or a 200 level course from one of the following: Anthropology, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology
  • Biology 118, Biology 180, Chemistry 120, Chemistry 142, Chemistry 145, Physics 114 OR Physics 117

Things to be aware of

Completion of the undergraduate program will require college level statistics, social sciences, lab sciences, a senior capstone project and several foundation courses across various departments such as Nutrition, Global Health, Health Services, Geography, Epidemiology, etc.

Preparing for the major

All interested students should attend an information session.

Websites to visit

General advice

Think broadly. There are many distinctions between public health and the clinical health professions. While public health is comprised of many professional disciplines such as medicine, dentistry, nursing, optometry, nutrition, social work, environmental sciences, health education, health services administration, and the behavioral sciences, its activities focus on entire populations rather than on individual patients.

Doctors treat individual patients one-on-one for a specific disease or injury. Thus, patients need medical care only part of the time, when they are ill. Public health professionals, on the other hand, monitor and diagnose the health concerns of entire communities and promote healthy practices and behaviors in individuals to keep our populations healthy. Communities need public health all of the time in order to stay healthy.