Public health professionals protect and improve the health of the public through education, research, promotion of healthy lifestyles and by creating public policy. Public health takes a population approach to issues of health and well being and has been responsible for some of the greatest advancements in civilization, e.g. clean water. A broad and inclusive field, public health offers opportunities for students with many different interests and skills. Some of the career specialties available in public health are research, epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, health administration, international health, community health education, and many others. Although public health specialists deal with threats such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, infectious diseases, and bio-terrorism, they also educate the public on nutrition, child and maternal health, safe driving and hundreds of other legal, educational, and public policy issues.
The pre-requisites for a master's degree in public health will depend on the focus you bring to the profession. The one consistent undergraduate course recommended for public health is statistics. (Math 253 would be preferred over Math 100.) Obviously, if you plan a career in cancer research, you will focus your undergraduate studies on science—perhaps biochemistry, biology or chemistry. If you are interested in government's role in health, you might major in public policy, government or economics. If your focus is on health law, you could consider combining law school with a public health degree.
Students who plan a career in international public health might consider exploring study abroad programs that are designed to offer you an excellent experience in that area, e.g. SIT's programs in Brazil, South Africa, Chile, China, and Kenya.
Hamilton has numerous alumni involved in the public health field, and offers on-campus speakers and programs each year on public health issues. Students considering a career in public health may want to become familiar with SFIPHA (Students for International Public Health Awareness) a student-run organization on campus that also offers programs and career exploration opportunities.
Many public health schools accept a common application for admission.
For more information on public health, visit the Association of Schools of Public Health or The Pfizer Public Health & Policy Group.
Simply reading the Website of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention will introduce you to many current topics in public health. In recent years, students interested in international public health and equity issues have attended the Unite For Sight conference, offered each spring at Yale University. Reading the web sites of groups like Partners in Health and Unite For Sight provides an excellent introduction to international public health work.