Public health professionals with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) are prepared to:
- assess factors influencing health in individuals, communities and populations
- plan effective programs and interventions
- design evaluations for those interventions
- successfully manage the implementation of those programs
The BSPH program is based on a philosophy of health promotion and disease prevention, to improve the quality of life of individuals, families and communities. The BSPH discipline focuses on four areas:
- the multiple determinants of health, including biological, environmental, sociocultural, health service, and economic factors,
- identification of scientific data, tools of informatics, and other information for identifying indicators of health status and health disparities and assessing the well-being of a community,
- address the major local, national, and global health challenges, and
- design public health approaches and interventions that improve health outcomes, population health and well-being.
There is currently a critical shortage of trained public health professionals that has been documented over the past decade. The Association of Schools of Public Health reported that the ratio of trained public health workers has declined from 220/100,000 in 1980 to 158/100,000 in year 2000. To return to the 1980 level approximately 250,000 new professionals will be needed over the current projected graduation rates.
In Texas, a survey of Federally Qualified Health Centers, local health departments, and state health and human service agencies completed in 2009 found vacancy rates as high as 8 percent for epidemiologists and environmental health workers, 10 percent for health educators, and 22 percent for public health technicians; the agencies desired an additional 134 FTEs over their vacancies for those four categories.
To date, undergraduates with educational grounding in public health principles and practices have been relatively rare. But, undergraduates with classroom training and field experience can be prepared to enter and grow in public health organizations and agencies, appropriately filling the notable part of the workforce gap between an untrained workforce and graduate-degreed professionals.
Why the BSPH?
The Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree program is more than a means to produce ready public health practitioners. It can complement or enrich a traditional biology-based pre-health degree plan for students intending professional education in medicine, nursing, allied health or other health professions. Notably, the program establishes a specific entry-level baccalaureate degree in the public health academic pathway which, until recently, has started with a master's degree.
Student demand is reflected in the growth of undergraduate public health programs nationally.
- Between 2003 and 2007, the number of bachelor's degrees awarded in public health doubled, increasing from 1,322 to 2,639.
- By 2005-2006 approximately half the schools and graduate programs of public health were offering undergraduate courses, minors or majors.
- By 2008, among all four-year institutions, about one in every six was offering a major, minor or concentration in public health or a similar field.
Current and anticipated public health workforce gaps require not just a replacement, but a recalibration of the workforce. In order to meet the more complex challenges and opportunities they face, agencies need workers with new and different skills and a broader background that includes health information technology and informatics, cultural competence, global health, communication, policy, community participatory research and disaster preparedness, as well as skill in the core functions of public health practice.