MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (December 19, 2022) — The University of Minnesota Board of Regents recently approved an undergraduate major in public health, a new degree program aimed at meeting the state’s critical need for a skilled, diverse public health workforce. The new Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in public health, scheduled to launch in the fall of 2023, will be housed in the U of M’s School of Public Health (SPH), Minnesota’s only public health school.
U of M Executive Vice President and Provost Rachel Croson cited the pressing need for strengthening and diversifying the public health workforce as driving the U of M’s decision to add the new degree program.
“The world needs leaders in public health now more than ever,” said Croson. “The COVID-19 pandemic uncovered opportunities for improvement across our current public health system, especially exposing racial, geographic and income health disparities that need to be addressed. This new program will provide undergraduate students with the skills to understand public health challenges, implement prevention strategies, and address the underlying influences that determine health outcomes, and disparities among them.”
SPH research shows that the nation’s public health workforce is shrinking, and that at least 80,000 new employees are needed to meet our nation’s most basic public health needs. By equipping students with the knowledge and skills to obtain an entry-level position in public health practice, SPH’s undergraduate degree helps fill this gap.
“This is the first time in our 78-year history that SPH has offered an undergraduate degree, and we’re thrilled to be providing undergraduates with the opportunity to attend one of the world’s premier schools of public health,” said Timothy Beebe, SPH interim dean. “SPH experts continuously shape the field through cutting-edge research, innovative learning techniques, and diverse community engagement. We look forward to welcoming a diverse group of undergraduates and giving them the chance to learn from SPH’s world-class faculty.”
Beebe also noted that students graduating with a BA in public health will join a network of more than 12,000 SPH alumni who provide support through mentorships, field experiences, career networking, and employment opportunities.
The undergraduate public health degree is designed to be a junior-admitting program, slated to launch with an inaugural class of current U of M students. The curriculum will focus on a number of critical areas, including creating effective public health strategies to prevent disease, promoting health in local communities, and identifying and eliminating health inequalities
“This is a forward-looking curriculum that provides students with a solid understanding of the pressing public health concerns of the day, and the knowledge to address these concerns,” said Ruby Nguyen, SPH associate professor and director of undergraduate studies. “I’m excited that we’re going to take students beyond the classroom and into the community. We want our students to see firsthand how societal structures and disparities can impact poor health outcomes so they’re better equipped to address these challenges when they enter the workforce.”
Students graduating from the program will be prepared to work in a variety of areas — from public health education to research to data analysis — at local health departments, not-for-profit organizations, healthcare systems, or standalone research entities.