Frequently Asked Questions
Global Public Health
Public health is the set of activities a society undertakes to monitor and improve the health of its collective members. It’s an interdisciplinary field that focuses on risk reduction, disease prevention, and health promotion of entire populations at local and global levels.
The three-course sequence in global public health is an interdisciplinary collaboration across the Boston College Schools of Social Work, Nursing, and Education. The sequence integrates foundational principles of public health with research on health topics, populations, and settings to learn about the field and application of skills to real-world problems. All courses use a broad view of health that includes physical, mental, and social well-being. Similarly, the sequence uses a broad view of ‘global,’ which transcends national boundaries to include both domestic issues in the US and around the world.
The global public health initiative at BC is interdisciplinary, with classes co-taught by faculty across the Schools of Social Work, Nursing, and Education, to bring in multiple perspectives on research, scholarship, and practice in public health. The courses integrate research and news from around the world to bring a global perspective to the classroom. Finally, BC’s program is unique in its focus on addressing social justice. Understanding health disparities from global and national perspectives is critical to beginning the task of achieving health equity.
The sequence in global public health integrates foundational principles of public health with research on health topics, populations, and settings so that undergraduate students can learn about the field and apply their new skills to current public health issues both domestically and around the world. The goal is also for students to bring the global health perspective with them to the various fields and professions they will pursue after graduation.
Since public health is interdisciplinary, students from all schools and majors are welcome, and the diverse student body brings a unique perspective to the classroom. Students interested in health outcomes, health behaviors, and health care often sign up for the courses. However, students from all schools/departments who want to gain a new perspective on prevention and health promotion will likely benefit. For example, students interested in entrepreneurship or communication may want to learn more about public health to develop new products/services or design health marketing campaigns.
The field of public health is distinct and different from medicine and the medical humanities minor. Public health focuses on populations, public service, and has a broad base addressing the conditions/factors people need to be healthy (e.g. poverty, environment, policies). Public health uses epidemiology, a quantitative method, to study the distribution and determinants of health and events in populations. In contrast, medicine’s focus is on the individual, individual service, diagnosis/treatment, and medical care. The medical humanities minor is an interdisciplinary, humanistic and cultural study of illness, health, health care, and the body.
The sequence in global public health aims to provide students in the humanities, social sciences, and the pre-med sciences with a foundation for a possible career in public health and/or a foundational understanding of issues in public health that might bear on their intended career. Students with other interests, such as business, economics, or law, may also benefit from learning about public health because of the relevance of these disciplines to contemporary public health issues.
There are many options for students with backgrounds in public health. Students may wish to pursue advanced training in public health and go on to earn a Masters in Public Health (MPH). Students may go into the health professions, such as becoming a doctor or nurse, or pursue careers in social work or research. Students with undergraduate training and experience in public health are also competitive for research assistant positions at health departments, universities, and hospitals.
Visit our website and sign up for our list serve to learn about public health events in the Boston area and BC. Boston is a hub for public health activity—there is everything from lectures, debates, and film screenings. Please email (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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. For a list of other clubs, click here.
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 or explore internship opportunities within the city of Boston at public health organizations. Volunteer opportunities for public health outreach can also be found at a wide variety of locations around the city. For a list of potential internships and volunteer opportunities during the school year or over the summer, click here.