Public Health Sciences

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The Department of Public Health Sciences offers the Master of Public Health (MPH) and the Master of Science (MS) in Public Health degrees with specializations in epidemiology and social and behavioral health sciences, and the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree with a specialization in community-based and translational research. The MPH, MS and DrPH degrees are accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health.


Epidemiology is the study of the distributions and determinants of health-related events in human populations. A basic tenet of epidemiology is that diseases are not randomly distributed in the population. Determining the prevalence and risk factors associated with these events, as well as measuring the magnitude of such occurrences, is the basis of public health action. An essential part of this determination involves the utilization of epidemiologic and biostatistical methods to evaluate the effectiveness of disease control measures.

Academic preparation for the epidemiology specialization includes courses in biology, microbiology, immunology, chemistry, and calculus. Epidemiology students are required to take advanced level training in chronic and infectious disease epidemiology, advanced biostatistics, and research design.

Over the last century, chronic diseases have replaced infectious diseases as the leading cause of death and, despite advances in medicine and technology, health disparities are increasing in almost every country. Unhealthy lifestyle factors such as tobacco use, lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, unsafe sexual practices, alcohol and drug use, and overexposure to the sun are major contributors to disability and death. In the social and behavioral health sciences (SBHS) specialization, students will learn about theories of health behaviors, interventions that can decrease premature mortality, and the skills required for planning and evaluating health promotion programs.

Academic preparation for SBHS includes prior course work in mathematics or statistics, biology or human development, and sociology or psychology.

Translational research is the investigation of how to successfully transform scientific discoveries arising from laboratory, clinical, or population studies into community applications to reduce incidence, morbidity, and mortality. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) in health is a collaborative approach to research that equitably involves investigators and members of the community in the research process and recognizes the unique strengths that each brings. This approach increases the likelihood that interventions will be embraced by the community and that community members will gain knowledge, skills, and other benefit from the research.


The MPH degree requires a minimum of 42 credit hours. The first semester of course work generally focuses on public health core requirements. In subsequent semesters, students take required and elective course work to meet their specializationís competencies, as well as the studentís professional goals. Included in the required course work is the practicum which provides students with the opportunity to apply academic knowledge in partnership with community organizations and other agencies, to learn practical skills in a public health-related setting, and to develop problem-solving skills in a supervised practicum experience.

The MS (Thesis) degree requires a minimum of 30 credit hours for the epidemiology specialization and 34-40 credits for the social and behavioral health sciences specialization. All MS students must complete at least 18 credits of course work, 12 of which must be earned in courses numbered 600-798 (excluding 699 and 700), including at least one graduate seminar in the major or related field. No more than 12 credits (combined total) in PH 699 and 700 may be applied to meet the minimum requirements. In addition, a minimum of six credits of PH 700 is required. Candidates must also complete a thesis as well as a final oral examination.

Courses of study leading to the MPH are designed to provide individuals with a broad background for professional practice in the field of public health. Courses of study leading to the MS degree are designed primarily to provide students with a research-oriented education.

The DrPH degree requires a minimum of 39 credits for students who have an MPH degree. The minimum number of credits for students who do not have an MPH is 39 credits plus the number of credits associated with missing prerequisites.

Information on the program of study leading to the doctor of philosophy (PhD) in epidemiology is available here. Candidates who successfully complete the doctoral program in epidemiology will be able to teach and to provide consultative services in basic aspects of epidemiology.

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John A. Burns School of Medicine • University of Hawai`i at Manoa
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