All About GeoHealth

The Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California announced GeoHealth as a new track in its Master of Public Health online program. The first of its kind, GeoHealth is a specialized study area that represents a new direction in public health. The program started accepting applications in the fall of 2014.

What is GeoHealth?

Geography and Public Health

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GeoHealth is where geography and public health intersect. The cooperation of the two disciplines can trace its roots to 1854, when Dr. John Snow identified the source of contaminated water that led to a cholera outbreak in England by using a map. The fields of public health and “spatial sciences” have become increasingly intertwined as our lives become more global.

What Coursework Is Involved?

The specialized track blends “spatial sciences” into the post-grad public health program. Spatial sciences are organized around the measurement and analysis of data that describe the earth, and includes fields like surveying, geographic information systems, hydrography, and cartography. GeoHealth students take four spatial sciences concentration courses through the USC Spatial Sciences Institute.

The program includes five public health foundation courses, three spatial science classes, a Program Evaluation and Research course, and a practicum, all designed to stimulate students’ critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills, so they will be ready for spatial analysis, visualization, and problem solving. Courses in both the public health and spatial sciences disciplines give a deep understanding of public health as a whole and the role that spatial sciences play in a time when travel, global resources, and environmental factors all impact health.

The practicum element gives students real-world experience in a community agency.

Why Do We Need GeoHealth Experts?

Humanitarian Aid and Public Health

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Geography and social characteristics are increasingly important to public health. GeoHealth students are learning how geographical context shapes health outcomes, trends, and inequalities. The program’s graduates will bring leadership to modern public health settings, as well as a thorough understanding of modern technologies and the data they deliver. This understanding is critical to research and decision-making with regard to health in a global society.

Careers for GeoHealth Graduates

The GeoHealth track is especially well-suited to those headed for careers (or career advancement) in government health agencies. Non-profit organizations and research institutions will also have need of the skills and specialized knowledge unique to GeoHealth grads.

Organizations with a need for geospatial health science knowledge include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Departments of Public Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, health insurance providers, and the World Health Organization, among many others.  Policy makers, journalists, consumer groups, academic researchers, and health officials are also interested in geospatial health information.

According to Dr. Shubha Kumar, program director, “Public Health practitioners increasingly recognize the value Geographic Information Systems can add in developing effective frameworks for action in local, national, and regional contexts. The courses offered in the GeoHealth track along with practicum opportunities will allow students passionate about improving public health to make a unique and lasting impact in their communities and the world.”