You may already be familiar with the acronym, but what does it really mean to pursue a Master’s of Public Health degree? Read on to learn more about the field and all you could discover with a degree in public health.
What does MPH stand for?
MPH stands for Master of Public Health. Students who pursue an MPH are likely to pursue on-the-ground careers as leaders in public health efforts including health education, emergency management, or policy analysis. The meaning of a public health degree could vary person to person, but it generally indicates a desire to work on behalf of a community to monitor and improve the health of the individuals within it.
You may have also heard of a Master of Science in Public Health, or, MSPH, which is considered a more research-focused degree for someone interested in pursuing a PhD and working in academia or a laboratory. While individuals with these degrees could overlap in career paths or institutions, this blog will focus on public health as it relates to the MPH.
What does the term “public health” encompass?
According to the CDC, “Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities.” This definition promotes one of the core values of public health which is understanding that the health of every individual can have an effect on the health of a whole neighborhood, school or nation.
The concept of public health can be traced back to the 14th century when growing cities suffered devastating plagues from a lack of sufficient and hygienic waste disposal. Urban sanitation efforts and preventative measures against disease make up a lot of the foundation of the history of public health.
Today, while transmissible illnesses like COVID-19, sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis are still considered issues of huge importance in the public health sector, many agencies are also examining the impact of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) on the health of communities. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that NCDs were responsible for seven of the top ten causes of death in 2019. It’s critical that public health experts also focus on diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, all of which can have varying outcomes greatly depending on access to healthcare.
Mental health is also considered a public health issue, especially with pandemic lockdowns worldwide which forced some individuals to spend excess amounts of time alone or without the ability to see friends and loved ones for many months at a time. While the lockdowns themselves were a method used to protect the health of citizens across the globe, the resulting mental health crisis is a reminder that dealing in public health can be like setting up a line of dominos: each move you make starts a chain reaction of events. Sometimes that chain results in positive outcomes but sometimes there are risks.
What’s included in an MPH degree program?
To better understand the meaning of an MPH, you can take a look at common components of a Master of Public Health curriculum.
Most programs will include fundamental courses in topics like biostatistics, health administration, epidemiology and social determinants of health. Some programs allow for specialization to really hone in on the knowledge and skills that can help graduates succeed in a specific type of career in the field. Specializations might include:
- Health policy management (HPM): A focus on leading organizations to create or manage public health programs, advocate for policy or oversee health and safety services.
- Epidemiology: A focus on investigating, understanding and advising action on disease outbreak.
- Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS): A focus on understanding individuals, their behaviors and the environment to design and evaluate interventions.
If you’re interested in earning an MPH, another key program attribute to look for is field experience in the form of a practicum or internship experience. Practical application of your new knowledge and skills can be an incredibly valuable experience before starting your career.
The true meaning of an MPH is personal.
One of the best ways to find out the impact of public health is to talk to individuals in the field and explore the vast array of careers available to graduates with an MPH. Something that makes the field so interesting is that it involves many different types of industries, organizations and individuals. Everyone has the opportunity to make a contribution to better the health of their community.
Additionally, most MPH programs in the U.S. allow people of any background who have a bachelor’s degree, to apply. If you’re interested in developing skills in health policy, population health, or the implementation and improvement of health services, consider Kent State University’s online Master of Public Health program. Affordable and customizable, with great career potential, our MPH program can help you advance into the impactful career you’re interested in.