Public health is the science and art of protecting the health of populations. Its mission is to enhance health, prevent disease, reduce disparities, extend longevity for all people, and safeguard the health of cities, states, and nations.
In this program, you will gain a deep understanding of the theory and practice of public health and prepare for graduate study in medicine, nursing, public health, health policy, law, and international relations or for a career in business, social work and public health practice.
The highly competitive program emphasizes the scientific and social dimensions of public health.
You will receive a rigorous education that places public health education in a highly interdisciplinary, liberal arts context. This will enable you to explore public health’s connections to history, sociology, literature, engineering, art, economics, and political science.
This major, which draws on Boston College’s Jesuit, Catholic tradition and Pope Francis’ teaching in Laudato Si’, will strongly emphasize the ethical and moral foundations of public health and the intersection between public health, social justice, and care for our Common Home.
You will be prepared to serve the public health needs on a global capacity, in addition to local, regional, and national communities.
This program is a collaboration between the Connell School of Nursing and the Schiller Institute for Science and Society.
Coursework in the major will be grounded in epidemiology and biostatistics, the core disciplines of public health. You will gain intellectual and experiential understanding of the social determinants of health—the complex web of social, economic, environmental, political, and historical factors that influence health and drive the spread of disease.
The major will consist of 36 academic credits, equivalent to 12 full-semester courses.
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Public Health in a Global Society
An overview of the history of public health, global burden of disease, sub-disciplines of public health, maternal/child health, and nutrition, and the collaborative nature of the field through examples in research and practice, focusing on at-risk populations, reducing health disparities, and improving health equity at the population level.
Introduction to Epidemiology
This course introduces basic principles and methods of epidemiology and biostatistics. Measures of disease frequency, association and causation, the design and analysis of studies, and the potential issues that may arise in these studies are addressed.
Biostatistics, Data Analytics and Quantitative Methods in Public Health
This course covers descriptive and inferential statistics used in biomedical and public health studies, with emphasis on practice and implementation. Descriptive statistics, probability, basic hypothesis testing, ANOVA, and linear and logistic regression will be covered.
Ethics of Global Public Health and the Common Good
A new course that will explore the social, economic, historical and political determinants of health.
Health Inequities: Origins and Remedies
Disease is not distributed evenly or randomly within societies, but instead is concentrated among people of color, the poor and the marginalized. This course will examine the social, economic, political and historical factors that drive disparities in health and explore strategies to overcome these structural injustices.
Global Public Health Law
This course will examine the critical role of law in creating and implementing social policy and achieving (or at least seeking) social justice.
Global Health: Theory to Practice
In this course, students will learn how to apply the theories and practices learned in other global health courses by working through practical case studies involving real-life global health problems.
Public Health Planning, Practice, and Evaluation
A new course which will include didactic material and case studies on leadership, advocacy, project implementation and evaluation, and community partnerships. Classroom teaching will be complemented with community engagement.
Courses for Required Capstone Project
PHCG4975 and PHCG4976: You will complete a 2-semester, 6-credit, interdisciplinary Capstone Experience in your senior year. The equivalent of two courses, this Capstone will be the culmination of your undergraduate experience and will allow you to apply your knowledge in a real-world setting. A faculty mentor will provide guidance as you work with a community-based organization identified by CSON’s Office of Clinical Placements and Community Partnerships. Individually or paired with another student, you will work in and with a community to:
The resulting project—a scholarly report, video, or other academic output—will describe the project, your approach to it, and its outcome. This final product will be of a quality suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed biomedical journal or for regional or national presentation.
You will choose two electives from an extensive list of courses.
Students applying to medical programs in the United States calculate a science GPA that includes all BCPM (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics) courses.
It is the belief of the Global Public Health and the Common Good program faculty that, in accordance with the guidelines outlined by AMCAS, the courses listed below should be reported in your “BCPM” GPA when applying through AMCAS. When filing an application, Premedical students should read the instructions on the AMCAS or AACOMAS application carefully, as policies may change.
As a graduate from this program, you will be prepared for:
You will learn how the health of populations affects economic growth and alters the destiny of nations. You will acquire knowledge of key elements of public health: disease prevention; health promotion; survey design; community assessment; data collection, management, and analysis; policy development; outbreak investigation and control; infection dynamics; project implementation; grant writing, public health communication; and leadership.
Because of their merit and passion for public health, GPHCG Student Ambassadors have been selected to represent the program at BC and beyond. It is their job to lead the next generation of public health professionals and help create meaningful impact in their communities.
student-run organizations dedicated to key issues in Global Public Health
Students are invited to learn about our research and to become involved in projects of significant importance to modern societies.
Areas of major research interest within the program are:
Public health protects the health of populations. Public health is the art and science of protecting the health of populations. Public health’s mission is to enhance health, prevent disease, reduce disparities, and extend longevity for all people. Unlike medicine and nursing with their focus on the health of individuals, public health’s unique responsibility is to safeguard the health of cities,
states, and nations. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of public health in ensuring a healthier world. Need is great for highly trained, compassionate, and ethically grounded public health professionals prepared and eager to meet current and future challenges.
Public health has had extraordinary triumphs. Public health has eradicated smallpox, virtually eliminated poliomyelitis, reduced lead poisoning in American children by 95%, improved air quality in the United States by 77% since 1970, reduced infant mortality by nearly 90% worldwide, and extended longevity in the United States from 35 years in the 1800’s and 47 years in 1900 to over 80 years today.
Public health’s successes have been highly cost-effective. By reducing disease, disability and premature death, increasing children’s intelligence, and extending healthy life, public health has increased productivity, reduced health care costs, and increased the wealth of nations by hundreds of billions of dollars. Investments in public health pay for themselves many times over.
Public health is committed to social justice and aligns with BC’s Jesuit, Catholic mission. Every day, public health confronts the unjust reality that diseases are not distributed evenly within populations but rather are concentrated among those who are racially, ethnically, and economically underrepresented and marginalized. In working to overcome these injustices, the work of our graduates will align with and fulfill Boston College’s Jesuit, Catholic mission.
Public health is highly interdisciplinary. Public health draws on the expertise of many disciplines - medicine, nursing, epidemiology, genetics, microbiology, engineering, mathematics, computer science, law, social work, history, geography, economics, sociology, political science, international studies, and ethics. These collaborations are foundational to all successes in public health.
Boston College offers an undergraduate minor, an independent major and a range of courses in Global Public Health. Our entry-level courses are open to students from across Boston College and are designed to introduce students in any field of study to core concepts in public health.
Enrollment in the 6-course (18 credit) minor in Global Public Health and the Common Good is by competitive application submitted in the spring of the freshman or sophomore year.
Enrollment in the 12-course (36 credit) major in Global Public Health and the Common Good is by special application, and all applicants must be individually approved.
Public health at Boston College has three unique features:
(1) Focus on undergraduate education: American public health education has traditionally been limited to postgraduate studies in medical schools and schools of public health that awarded Master of Public Health (MPH) and doctoral degrees. The great advantage of our plan to offer rigorous, MPH-level education to undergraduates is that it will place public health education in a highly interdisciplinary, liberal arts context. This will enable our students to explore public health’s connections to history, sociology, literature, engineering, art, economics, and political science in ways that would be nearly impossible elsewhere.
(2) Focus on the ‘Common Good’: Inclusion of the ‘Common Good’ in our title signals strong links to Philosophy and Theology and a commitment to Pope Francis’s teaching on social justice and the importance of social determinants in health and disease. The program has an explicit emphasis on the moral and ethical foundations of public health throughout the curriculum.
(3) Focus on Global Public Health: In addition to preparing graduates to serve the needs of local and national communities, graduates of our program will be prepared to serve the needs of the public health in a global capacity. This is unique from most other programs, especially the few at the undergraduate level, where the focus is typically on local, regional, and national public health.
All students who take classes in Global Public Health at Boston College will gain familiarity with core concepts in public health and acquire insights about health and society that will inform their life’s work in a broad range of fields and professions. They will come to understand the key role that public health plays in maintaining the stability of modern societies – a role that has never been more clearly evident than in the COVID-19 pandemic
Students who complete the minor in Global Public Health and the Common Good will become deeply familiar with the disciplines and dimensions of public health and will be fully prepared for postgraduate studies in public health (MPH and PhD).
For students headed to medicine, dentistry and nursing as well as for those interested in law, economics, international studies, mathematics, physics, chemistry, the humanities, business, social work or education, completion of the minor in Global Public Health will deepen their education and broaden their understanding of the intersections between human health, the environment and the health of the planet.
Because public health is highly interdisciplinary, students from all schools and majors across Boston College are encouraged to take courses through the program for Global Public Health and the Common Good. Our student body is deliberately diverse, and this diversity brings a unique perspective to the classroom.
For example, International Studies students in the Global Public Health minor educate their fellow students about the role of diplomacy in advancing public health. Students interested in entrepreneurship or communication will gain insights about public health that will enable them to develop new products and services or design health-marketing campaigns. Students planning careers in medicine, nursing or dentistry will come to understand how the health of populations influences the health and well-being of individual patients.
Public health, medicine and nursing are closely related and they share a common body of scientific knowledge, but they differ from each other in that the focus of public health is on the health of populations, while the focus of medicine and nursing is on the health of individual patients.
The Medical Humanities minor at Boston College is an interdisciplinary, humanistic and cultural sequence of courses that studies illness, health, health care, and the body. Courses in the Medical Humanities minor complement coursework in public health and in the pre-health program. Students can cross-enroll in these programs.
Students who complete the minor in Global Public Health and the Common Good will have a variety of career options.
Upon graduation from Boston College, they will be competitive for staff positions in environmental and community health organizations and for research assistant positions at health departments, universities, and hospitals.
They will be fully prepared to pursue advanced training in public health at a School of Public Health and to earn a Master’s degree (MPH) degree or a doctoral degree (PhD or Dr.P.H.) in public health.
They will be prepared to enter any of the health professions - medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or the allied health professions – and they will carry with them an extra credential and a body of knowledge that will enrich and inform their life’s work.
Many of our public health graduates go onto medical school where they are highly competitive and their education in public health enhances their medical studies.
Sign up for our list serve to learn about public health and public-health-related events at Boston College and throughout the Boston area. Boston is a hub for medical and public health activity—there is everything from lectures, debates, and film screenings. Please email us if you would like more information or if you want to advertise an event or job opportunity.
There are also many public health-related clubs on campus working in a wide variety of areas. The Public Health Club of Boston College started in September 2015 and coordinates on-campus events to educate students about public health.
There are many opportunities to gain experience in public health both on and off campus. Students can work as a University Research Fellow for a faculty member doing research in an area of public health. They can explore internship and volunteer opportunities in a wide range of public health organizations within the city of Boston and beyond. They can also enroll in Boston College's acclaimed PULSE program.
“Developing this major at Boston College is aligned with our mission to use our education and knowledge in service to others – in this case, to serve people and communities through global public health.”