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14 Ways to Learn How to Build Healthier Communities, Big and Small, Through Public Health Education

Written by 2U on Apr 8, 2022

Related content: Graduate Programs, Learner Stories, MicroMasters, Executive Education, Courses, Impact and Outcomes

Students and alumni from 2U-powered programs, clockwise from top left: Gail Solod, Pastor Jonathan Smith, Carrie Schaefer, Marina Del Pizzo, Stacy Jones, and Steven Montague

For the past 25 years and counting, the American Public Health Association (APHA) has designated the first full week in April as National Public Health Week. The observance, taking place from April 4-10 this year, provides an opportunity to honor contributions to the public health field while bringing attention to ongoing issues affecting our country’s well-being.

At 2U, we believe education is key to building a healthier world. By empowering the next generation of public health leaders through learning, we can help create flourishing communities and take steps toward a brighter future. Read on to learn more about public health, why it matters, and how you can make a difference by gaining skills in the field, just like several featured students from 2U-powered programs are doing today.

What Is Public Health?

When you hear the term public health, you may think of the policymakers and public servants who pass laws to keep the public safe—but public health requires dedicated professionals who build community at every level of society. The field encompasses a wide range of disciplines, from nutrition to city planning, and “includes all of the organized and holistic efforts to improve policy, education, and access to make the healthiest choice the easiest for everyone,” according to the APHA.

Unlike most clinicians, who see patients individually and focus on treating disease and illness, public health professionals take a proactive approach to address health concerns at the population level. Researchers, social workers, mental health practitioners, epidemiologists, nutritionists, health educators, and community planners are all part of the fabric of a healthy society and play critical roles in preventing and responding to public health issues.

Why Does Public Health Matter?

Public health efforts can have real, transformative effects on communities across our nation and the globe. Initiatives to increase seat belt usage are a prime example. Between 1981 and 2010, seat belt usage rose by about 74% thanks to new laws and better education, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

And it’s not just high-level efforts that drive change. Graduates of the online Master of Public Health program from George Washington University are proving that individuals can also make a difference in the health of their communities.

Consider Pastor Jonathan Smith, who enrolled in the program to better serve members of his parish dealing with opioid addiction. But when the pandemic hit, his education proved even more useful, giving him the foresight to stop in-person gatherings early and keep his congregation safe and healthy.

Then there’s Gail Solod, who went to work for a health system after graduation and quickly began noticing the impact of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement cuts on the healthcare industry and its implications for patients. Realizing that the system’s disproportionately low-income population faces high maternal mortality rates and has limited access to effective contraceptives, Gail and her colleagues introduced an affordable IUD offering for patients.

“That was one of those moments where I was like: Oh! This is where my work is going to be really impactful, where the rubber meets the road, as you’d say—where we're actually seeing how we create a difference for people,” reflects Gail.

Make a Difference Now for a Better Tomorrow

2U offers a wide array of educational resources for anyone interested in learning more about public health or even enacting change in a public health field. If you’re drawn to making a difference through a public health career, or simply modeling best practices in your everyday life, check out the online degree programs and courses below.

Online Degree Programs in Public Health-Related Fields

Advance or kickstart a career in public health with these online graduate programs accessible from anywhere.

  • A Master of Science in Nursing from Georgetown University or the Family Nurse Practitioner Program from Simmons University help you bring your nursing practice to the next level—even while balancing personal obligations, like this single mom—or pivot into nursing at a “safety net” organization serving diverse populations—like this Nursing@Georgetown grad.
  • A Master of Social Work from Howard University prepares you to serve Black and marginalized communities. Read more about how the program accelerates opportunity and social justice through its unique approach, rooted in the Black Perspective, from Dean Dr. Sandra Edmonds Crewe.
  • With a Master of Counseling from Northwestern University, you find your calling as a clinical mental health counselor. Learn more about the program from Catherine Sims, adjunct faculty at Northwestern.
  • A Master of Public Health with an Applied Epidemiology Concentration from the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health teaches you to apply epidemiologic approaches in the field or office. Learn all the possibilities the program has to offer from two faculty leads.
  • The Physician Assistant Online Program from the Yale School of Medicine prepares you for a career as a physician’s assistant through online classes, in-person clinical experience, and problem-based learning. Discover how the program equipped one graduate to work in emergency medicine and urgent care.

Executive Education Topics in Public Health

Explore highly topical issues in public health, from COVID-19 to artificial intelligence, with these stackable, self-paced executive education courses.

Courses in Health Care Administration, Food and Nutrition, Well-Being, and More

These public health courses from universities around the world range in format, from MicroMasters® programs to professional certificates to individual courses. While some are geared toward specialists in the field, others are more suitable for generalists.

Honoring National Public Health Week

We hope these resources have inspired you to take the next step, no matter how big or how small, in learning about public health. Who knows—you could inspire someone else to start on their own journey toward improving their health and that of their community, too.

Learn more about us.

At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help partners thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.