Health Equity Concentration in Public Health

Public health professionals and researchers play a crucial role in identifying health disparities and the advancement of health equity among different groups. A health equity degree in public health can help you assume one of these roles in organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Health (NIH), community groups and hospitals.

It’s more common for the health equity concentration to be offered with master’s degrees, compared to bachelors and doctorate. If you are interested in health equity, read on to know more the following topics:

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What is Health Equity?

Deficiencies in healthcare access, treatment, and outcomes across populations are predictable, avoidable and unjust. These inequalities or disparities challenge public health policies, health advocates and medical professionals every day. Health equity is achieved when all gaps no longer exist, and individuals across different populations attain their full health potential. 

Why is health equity important for public health? 

Gaps in health and healthcare across the United States continue to grow. They are reflected in the differences in length of life, quality of life, rates of disease, the severity of disease, access to treatment and death among those unable to achieve health equity due to social determinants such as:

  • Residential segregation
  • Language and literacy
  • Availability of resources to meet daily needs 
  • Access to educational, economic and job opportunities
  • Availability of community-based resources 
  • Access to healthcare services
  • Social support
  • Transportation options
  • Exposure to social disorder, crime and violence 
  • Public safety
  • Social norms and attitudes
  • Access to mass media and emerging technologies

Overcoming these social determinants and attaining health equity among these disadvantaged groups improves the health of the overall population and ensures the social justice of inclusion for all individuals.

Bachelor’s Degree in Health Equity

Few of the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredited institutions offer bachelor’s degrees in public health with the health equity concentration. When accredited, this academic program provides students a solid foundation in statistical analysis and research methods and positions graduates for entry-level employment in medicine, health education and global health research. In addition to standard admission requirements such as a resume or letter of recommendation, schools might request a personal statement or essay and a written response to a supplemental question.

Curriculum for a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Equity

Curriculum for a bachelor’s degree in health equity consists of required Bachelor of Public Health (BSPH) courses, general education classes, along with a designation number of internship and community service hours. Courses may include:

  • Introduction to Public Health: Provides students with a clear understanding of the systemic health issues impacting specific communities and a foundation in public health principles. Students are introduced to the tools for assessing health outcomes, the framework for analyzing the causes, generating solutions, researching and documenting evidence-based public health issues.
  • Health Disparities, Equity and Social Justice: Explores health disparities, examines social determinants of health and understands multi-level strategies at decreasing poor health outcomes within a public health framework based on social justice.

Master’s Degree in Health Equity

A master’s in public health with a concentration in health equity focuses on racial disparities and the management of cross-cultural relationships. Graduates prepare for positions in various organizations, including government agencies and nonprofits to develop and assess culturally-appropriate programs and carry out community needs assessments to improve the health of diverse rural populations.

Curriculum for a Master’s Degree in Health Equity

  • Structural and Environmental Issues in Urban Communities: Focuses on concepts of risk and burden of disease in rural communities. It examines contemporary issues and challenges of the social, cultural, and physical environments of urban communities.
  • Social Determinants of Health: Focuses on the study of the economic and social conditions which determine health. This course examines the social decline in health and explores how poverty, discrimination, job security, neighborhood characteristics, social support, transportation, and stress affect health and longevity. It further investigates how essential interventions shape social environments that support better health.
  • Interdisciplinary Approaches to Population Health Challenges: Provides students with a multidisciplinary team-based experience in improving the health of the local community by examining social determinants of health and structural, environmental and systemic issues that impact population health within the context of health equity.
  • Community-Based Research for Health Equity: Emphasizes innovative and experimental designs to evaluate the program impact as well as examine the program implementation. Case studies drawn from the public health field demonstrate various types of evaluations and participatory research efforts. 

MPH Programs in Health Equity Concentration

Several CEPH-accredited institutions offer a master’s degree with a concentration in health equity, including Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH). You can also find both on-campus and online MPH programs across the U.S. that offer this concentration. Some concentrations may not be called “health equity,” but you can still expect the similar learning outcomes from these programs.

School Name Concentration Location Online or On Campus
Bethune-Cookman University MPH in Health Equity Daytona Beach, FL On Campus
Campbell University – College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences MSPH in Rural Health Buies Creek, NC On Campus
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science MPH in Urban Health Disparities Los Angeles, CA On Campus
Colorado School of Public Health MPH in Global Health and Health Disparities Aurora, CO
Fort Collins, CO
Greeley, CO
On Campus
Drexel University MPH in Urban Health
MPH in Global Health
Philadelphia, PA Online
John Hopkins University MPH Humanitarian Health Baltimore, MD Both
La Salle University MPH in Health Disparities in Urban Communities Philadelphia, PA On Campus
Loyola University Chicago MPH in Global Health Equity Maywood, IL Both
Mercer University MPH in Diverse Populations and Health Equity Macon, GA
Atlanta, GA
Savannah, GA
North Dakota State University MPH in American Indian Public Health Fargo, ND Both
Northeastern University MPH in Urban Health Boston, MA Both
Simmons University
MPH in Health Equity Boston, MA Online
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey MPH in LGBTQ Health
MPH inUrban Public Health
Piscataway, NJ
Newark, NJ
On Campus
Tennessee State University MPH in Cultural Competency Nashville, TN On Campus
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences MPH in Rural and Global Public Health Practice Little Rock, AR Online
University of California, Irvine MPH in Sociocultural Diversity and Health Irvine, CA On Campus
University of Hawaii MPH in Native Hawaiian & Indigenous Health Honolulu, HI On Campus
University of Maryland MPH in Health Equity College Park, MD On Campus
University of Memphis MPH in Urban Health Memphis, TN On Campus
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill MPH in Health Equity, Social Justice, and Human Rights Chapel Hill, NC On Campus
University of North Dakota MPH in Indigenous Health Grand Forks, ND Both
University of Texas at El Paso MPH in Hispanic and Border Health El Paso, TX On Campus
Wayne State University MPH in Public Health Methods in Urban Health Detroit, MI On Campus

Doctorate Degree in Health Equity

There are only a few CEPH-accredited doctoral programs in health equity. The Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) program is designed to prepare individuals for leadership positions with organizations engaged in the planning and implementing initiatives designed to meet public health needs. In addition to standard school application materials, DrPH applicants should have:

  • MPH or equivalent degree.
  • A minimum of three years of professional, full-time public health experience in the applicant’s area of interest.
  • Official GRE or GMAT test scores from exams taken within the last five years.

Curriculum for a Doctorate Degree in Health Equity

  • Conceptual and Evidential Foundations of Health Equity and Social Justice: Addresses the theoretical and philosophical basis of Health Equity and Social Justice.
  • Health of Vulnerable Worker Populations: Covers occupational safety and health program matters for vulnerable populations such as women workers, shift workers, aging workers, workers with impairments or chronic diseases, and workers’ families. 
  • Advances in Community-Oriented Primary Healthcare: Introduces students to the origins and recent advances in community-oriented primary health care through case studies from both developing and developed countries.

Health Equity Careers Options and Industries Outlook

As with any career, salaries vary according to factors including level of education, job experience and geographic location. The collection of skills gained from a master’s in health equity allows for careers that are diverse and include:

Occupation Industry Outlook Projected 2019-2029
Social and Community Service Managers 17% increase
Health Policy Analyst (Political Scientist) 6% increase
Environmental Scientists and Specialists 8% increase
Agricultural and Food Scientists 6% increase
Medical and Health Services Managers 32% increase
Nonprofit Director NA

Public health professionals can work in a variety of traditional and non-traditional settings in the public, nonprofit and private sectors:

  • County and state health departments
  • Schools and hospitals
  • Research and pharmaceutical organizations
  • Center for Diseases Control and Prevention
  • National Institutes of Health
  • American Red Cross
  • American Cancer Society
  • Pan American Health organization
  • United States Agency for International Development
  • World Health Organization
What can you do with an MPH in health equity?

With an MPH in health equity, you can take on a professional role such as:
– Social and community service managers
– Health policy analyst (political scientist)
– Environmental scientists and specialists
– Agricultural and food scientists
– Medical and health services managers
– Nonprofit director

Is a health equity degree worth it?

A health equity degree provides the necessary skills to help ensure disadvantaged groups can live their best health and, in turn, improve the health equity of individuals and society. Check and compare the MPH programs in health equity.

Information last updated as of February 2021

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