Global Public Health

1. What is the structure of the Track?

Consistent with the University’s core values of helping students to think critically about key local and global challenges and helping students to become engaged and informed citizens, this track will introduce students to a public health approach to understanding three fundamental questions. The questions were developed by the World Health Organization and are at the core of what public health aims to achieve—health equity for all:

 “1. Where do health differences among social groups originate, if we trace them back to their deepest roots? 2. What pathways lead from root causes to the stark differences in health status observed at the population level? 3. In light of the answers to the first two questions, where and how should we intervene to reduce health inequities?”

The global/public health honors track will address these three broad questions by examining social/cultural/behavioral, structural, and environmental determinants of health in the United States and globally. The track will include three seminar courses and two research/capstone courses, the second of which is structured around the completion of a supervised independent research project/thesis.

The track is structured around five new three-credit courses. The first three courses cover foundational ideas in global/public health about the social, structural and environmental conditions that shape and determine the health of human populations. The three courses are: Social, Cultural and Behavioral Determinants of Health, Structural Determinants of Health, and Environmental Determinants of Health. Each course will cover theory/conceptual frameworks, and research evidence elucidating the root causes of health status differences in human populations. Cross-cutting themes in these courses will include a global perspective, a human rights/social justice framework, a life course perspective, and appreciation of complexity. All three courses will consider how public health applies research evidence to develop interventions to improve health and decrease disparities within and between countries.


Course 1: Social, Cultural and Behavioral Determinants of Health covers the many ways in which the social and cultural environment and human behavior influence population health and interact to produce health status disparities. The course will consider key social factors such as race, class, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, income, education, disability, and immigration status, as well as cultural norms and beliefs, and behaviors as important determinants of human health. The ways in which public health intervenes to address social, cultural and behavioral factors in order to improve the health of groups will also be considered. This course will be proposed as a UCC Area 4 course.


Course 2: Structural Determinants of Health will cover macro-level influences on health including systems of power, governance and economics, globalization, institutions of civil society, and the role of transnational corporations. The course will analyze how macro-level influences both shape and determine health in human populations. Social movements and interventions to address macro-level factors aimed at improving population health will also be considered. This course will be proposed as a UCC Area 5 course.


Course 3: Environmental Determinants of Health will cover the interdependence of humans on natural systems, how human societies shape and alter natural systems, and how this in turn shapes and determines the health of human populations. The course will consider the role of the environment in human health problems across the life course including infectious and chronic diseases, reproductive problems and developmental disorders. Key issues which will be considered in this course include interactions between human health and climate change, habitat destruction and species extinction, rapid urbanization, globalization, air and water pollution, water scarcity, sanitation, toxics, the built environment, and access to nature. This course will examine these issues both in the United States and globally and will be proposed as a UCC Area 6 course.


Course 4: Public Health Capstone I will address the main research methods used in public health. The course will cover the role of research in understanding public health problems, research design and methods (quantitative and qualitative), and ethics. Students will learn how to search for published, peer-reviewed literature and will develop skills in reading and analyzing published studies. The course will culminate in the development of the research proposal for the senior honors thesis which will include a literature review and a detailed plan for the senior thesis research project. This course will be proposed as a UCC Writing Intensive course.


Course 5: Public Health Capstone II is the course in which students conduct research for and write their senior honors thesis. A written thesis and public presentation of results will be required. Students will use computer software for analyzing the data they collect. This course will be proposed as a UCC technology-intensive course.


Pre-requisites/Co-requisites: Statistics (MATH 1300) and Epidemiology (PBHL 4000) will be required of all global/public health honors track students. Statistics may be taken as a pre-requisite to entering the track or while enrolled in the track prior to taking Capstone I. Epidemiology should be taken while in the track prior to taking Capstone II.

 2. What are the academic or other aspects which make it an honors track? How does the program enhance academic excellence and provide unique opportunities for students?

The honors track will provide a more competitive program for students who want to explore global/public health issues in greater depth than is currently offered in regular coursework for the public health major/minor. The three seminar courses are geared toward helping students to understand and appreciate the complex factors that shape human health at the population level. The skills that students will develop in the track such as reading comprehension, the ability to evaluate and use evidence, analysis, critical thinking, and public speaking, and writing skills are highly transferrable to other fields and disciplines.


The honors track in global/public health will provide an intensive and interdisciplinary option to students who have an interest in the health of human populations who are majoring in any discipline across the University. For students majoring in fields other than public health, it will provide them with an opportunity to connect what they are learning in their majors to the overarching issue of human health and its determinants. For public health majors, it will provide an opportunity for deeper, more intensive study with public health faculty.


Due to the currency of public health issues such as emerging infectious diseases and the intersection of public health with major global concerns such as climate change, environmental deterioration, forced migration, development, and human rights, the program will likely attract students in a range of majors.

 3. How will the track provide access to freshmen, upper class and/or transfer students?

The global/public health track will enroll up to 20 students in each cohort (junior and senior years, though we will consider admitting sophomores who entered the University as honors students and are advanced in their coursework when requested). Freshmen admitted to the Honors College may select the track upon enrolling in the Honors College. Students who have an overall GPA of 3.25 will be allowed to apply to be part of the track during their sophomore year and they would begin the five-course program in their junior year. Transfer students who qualify for the Honors College will also be able to apply to the global/public health honors program which they would start in the first semester of their junior year. We will reserve a few track slots each year in the junior year cohort for transfer students.  

 4. What are the expected outcomes and how will you assess these?

We expect that students who complete the honors track in public health will be well prepared for graduate study in social sciences, physical sciences or various professional programs such as nursing, medicine, public health, law, civil engineering, among others. Other expected outcomes will be that track students will present their research at local, state or national meetings, and/or participate in writing research for publication. These outcomes will be tracked by the honors track director. Additionally, we will survey our graduates to determine either job placement or course of graduate study. We expect that having participated in the honors program will lead to more competitive graduate school or career placements.