What Will You Learn in an MPH in Community Health Sciences Program?

January 26, 2024

Community health sciences is a public health subfield focused on factors that influence health and well-being within communities and populations. Community health scientists examine the interpersonal, family, neighborhood, community, and societal factors that impact disease risk, resilience, and mortality rates. They then use this information to design programs that foster healthier societies. 

Community health sciences also play a critical role in promoting health equity, advocating for equal access to health resources and opportunities for all communities, regardless of background or socioeconomic status. 

If you are fascinated by how sociocultural, legal, economic, geographic, and organizational factors affect community health, a Master of Public Health in Community Health Sciences (MPH-CHS) could be the right degree for you. You can earn this degree online from Tulane University, whose School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine was the nation’s first public health school and remains one of the top U.S. public health programs.

What is a Master of Public Health in Community Health Sciences?

MPH-CHS programs teach students to assess and address health risks to bring about meaningful change. Their discipline spans the healthcare spectrum from infectious diseases to chronic conditions to mental health. Upon completing Tulane’s online MPH-CHS, students are ready to design and implement theoretically informed and culturally appropriate interventions. 

The MPH-CHS degree is best suited to early or mid-career professionals seeking such roles as social and community service manager, medical health and services manager, and epidemiologist

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What Will You Learn in an MPH-CHS Program?

The Tulane MPH-CHS focuses on developing competencies in four areas

  • Epidemiology — to understand how diseases become public health crises
  • Behavioral Science — to understand what motivates people to make healthier choices
  • Biostatistics — to learn how to use data to evaluate and address health risks
  • Management — to develop the communication skills needed to influence leaders and policymakers in the interest of the public good

The curriculum consists of three categories: foundational requirements, program course requirements, and electives.

Foundational Requirements

The foundational requirement courses develop core public health competencies. The skills taught should enable you to address complex health challenges, make evidence-based decisions, and contribute to improving the health and well-being of communities and populations. 

Foundational requirements include: 

  • Foundations in Public Health: This course provides an overview of public health principles, concepts, and evidence-based approaches to global public health and the biological, environmental, behavioral, socioeconomic, and political determinants of health. Students will integrate these influences through case study and discussions of scenario analyses.
  • Health Systems Policy and Management: This course exposes students to the complexities, scope, and impact of decisions affecting public health. It provides a survey of public health and health care systems, policy, and management principles used in public health settings. Class discussion and exercises provide opportunities for students to apply principles and skills to their own areas and career interests. 
  • Design Strategies in Public Health Programs: This course equips students with the knowledge and skills to design, implement, and evaluate public health programs for diverse public health issues, populations, and settings. This course features active and collaborative learning and real-world application of course concepts. Ultimately, the course will illustrate that the effective design of public health programs is critical to improving community health.
  • Epidemiology for Public Health: This course introduces students to epidemiological methods and approaches for use across all public health domains. This includes measuring the occurrence of disease, outbreak investigations, incidence and prevalence, natural history of disease, study designs, and estimating risk. The course also addresses the interpretation of data analyses for research, policy, and practice.
  • Biostatistics for Public Health: In this course, students learn how to collect, manage, and visualize a wide variety of data and appropriate biostatistical methods, including probability distributions, estimations, power and sample size, and regression. Interdisciplinary exercises, homework assignments, and data sets are drawn from real-world scenarios. The course also prepares those students who move on to advanced biostatistics courses.

Program Course Requirements

The program’s course requirements equip students with specialized knowledge and practical skills to understand complex societal factors, evaluate health programs, and promote equity. 

Program course requirements include: 

  • Social and Behavioral Aspects of Health: This course covers the behavioral, social, and cultural aspects of health and disease. Students identify how behavioral and social theories across levels of the social-ecological model are relevant to social and behavioral health issues and interventions. Central to the learning experience is a comprehensive course project, where students conduct an evidence-based literature review and apply theory to inform interventions to improve health.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Health Programs: This course provides students with an introduction to monitoring and evaluation, a widely valued set of skills in both the domestic and international contexts. The course content includes rationales for evaluation; the political, organizational, and theoretical aspects of evaluation; and methods for implementing a sound evaluation Students will gain practical experience in translating concepts into the development of an evaluation plan for actual programs. 
  • Social Innovation Tools: This course offers students a toolkit of skills for complex systems thinking, systems-led leadership, and human-centered design (HCD) to prepare graduates to address complex societal problems such as climate change, violence, and poor access to health. Students learn how to map systems, identify entry points, reframe messy problems into smaller “challenges,” and address them in human-centered, creative, collaborative ways with stakeholders. Training in design thinking is offered via hands-on workshops, complemented by a theoretical framing of design for the public good. Examples are drawn from public health, education, and sustainability; they span domestic, international, and global contexts.
  • Health Communication Theory and Practice: This course is designed to examine research and practice in health communication, with a special focus on how health media campaigns are planned and executed in order to stimulate change in knowledge, attitudes, behavior, and subsequent health outcomes. This examination will include the review of the history of health communication campaigns, the theoretical foundation for the design and implementation of campaigns, and selected case studies of campaigns. Practical aspects of designing campaigns and media messages will be covered.
  • Health Equity: In this course, students will be introduced to the status of health equity in the U.S. according to race and ethnicity, sex and gender, and socioeconomic status. They also will explore the causes of health inequities guided by a socioecological framework. Lastly, they will gain skills in cultural competency, including tools for addressing implicit biases individually and in organizations, as well as approaches for allyship with marginalized populations. Students will engage in peer discussions pertaining to topical areas, complete brief writing assignments to apply learning from the course, and conduct a literature review to synthesize knowledge in a chosen health equity topic.

Electives, the Applied Practice Experience, and the Integrative Learning Experience

The program allocates 13 of its 45 credits to elective coursework. Students can choose any online course offered through the online MPH program as an elective. They also complete the Applied Practice Experience (APL) and Integrative Learning Experience (ILE)

The APE allows students to demonstrate their attainment of program competencies through applied work and to develop real-world competencies in a supervised practice setting of their choice. After the foundational MPH courses are completed, students can perform the APE at their current place of employment, as long as their APE role differs from their current job. The program can help with placement if needed. The APE allows students to prove their mastery of five key competencies (foundational and programmatic), three outlined by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) and two selected by program faculty. 

The ILE enables students to demonstrate what they have learned in the foundational and program competencies through the completion of case studies and scenarios. Students participate in group activities and assignments such as compiling a policy brief, evaluation report, press release, communication speaking points, or legislative updates. These activities culminate in a high-quality written report. 

Earn Your MPH-CHS Online From Tulane University

The online MPH-CHS at Tulane University offers a pathway to driving transformational solutions to community health challenges. You’ll develop the skills to design and implement interventions to address diverse community issues. In the process, you will become an equity-minded leader who can make a difference in your community. 

The program’s flexible online delivery enables you to balance your studies with your work and personal life. However, you can still connect with faculty and peers through the program’s blend of self-paced asynchronous coursework and live synchronous sessions for discussions, case studies, and exercises.

Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine is the No. 12 school of public health in the U.S., according to U.S. News & World Report, and the only combined school of its kind in the nation. It also has an excellent graduate employment rate, with 99.7 percent of graduates working, volunteering, or continuing their education within one year of graduation. If you’re ready to advance your public health career, contact an enrollment advisor to learn more.

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