Public and Community Health

Public health is a multidisciplinary field dedicated to promoting and protecting the health of people and the communities in which they live.  Public health professionals analyze various factors that impact health, such as social, economic, and environmental determinants and then develop strategies to address critical issues.  They strive to improve the health of people and their communities through advocacy, education, research, policy development, and coordinated implementation of services.  The American Public Health Association's video "What is Public Health?" offers you a glimpse of the board field of public health. 

Public health is different than healthcare. Public health strives to improve the health of populations and communities, emphasizes prevention and health promotion efforts, and strives to reduce health disparities. Healthcare primarily focuses on individualized care, tailored to the specific needs of patients. Public health professionals work in communities, workplaces, schools, and public health agencies, whereas healthcare professionals typically work in hospitals, clinics, and health care facilities.  Although public health and healthcare professionals have distinct roles, they share a common goal of improving health.

Public health professionals promote health through education, outreach efforts, and program leadership, addressing such issues as disparities in access to health care, food security, and risk factors associated with chronic disease.  They strive to prevent disease and reduce its impact through surveillance research and the implementation of prevention efforts, such as vaccination programs, environmental monitoring, and public communication. Public health professionals play a significant role in developing plans and strategies to respond to emergencies and disasters.  The growing emphasis on OneHealth, the significant interconnectedness between the health of people, animals, and the environment, presents opportunities for public health professionals to make a positive impact.  

The public and community health major offers flexibility, allowing you to pursue your interests in this broad field.  Your course work provides a foundation for understanding public health issues on a community and global scale.  Our commitment to diversity and advocacy is reflected in throughout our program and highlighted in our courses in critical health, public policy, and social justice.  Hands-on-experiences and fieldwork are integrated in our program, giving you the experience of working directly in the community.

The large number of free electives offers you the option of earning a double major, such as in public & community health and environmental science.  You can also use your electives to pursue a minor, such as in aging studies or nutrition promotion, or enjoy the freedom to explore your interests. Some of our graduates have used this flexibility to satisfy the prerequisites for graduate study in nursing, physician assistant, occupational therapy, health administration, law school, and public policy.

Outstanding Alums and Students

Our Graduates

After completing your degree, you have the option of entering the workforce directly or like many of our graduates, choose to pursue a master’s degree in public health immediately after graduating. Some of the graduate schools our students have enrolled in include Boston University School of Public Health, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, SUNY Albany School of Public Health, and New York University School of Global Public Health. This reflects the high regard for our program and the successful pathways it provides for those seeking advanced education in public health.

Our graduates have pursued many different career paths. Their job titles reflect the diversity of career opportunities in public health. Jobs include:

  • Health Equity Manager, Health Policy
  • Grants coordinator, Columbia University
  • Program manager, Boston Foundations Neighborhoods and Housing
  • Outreach director, Justice Foundation, Harm-reduction initiatives
  • Policy Researcher, Agriculture
  • Collegiate Health Promotion Director
  • Researcher 
  • Communication Specialist, USAID
  • Public Health Preparedness Coordinator
  • Nutrition Specialist
  • Health Inspector

Our major in public and community health prepares you to make a difference in the health of people and their communities.

Help prepare for a public health emergency

Learn more about the opportunity to participate in an emergency preparedness exercise conducted in conjunction with staff from our local Tompkins County Health Department. This exercise, referred to as Point of Dispensing or POD, uses the distribution of the annual flu vaccine to the entire College campus to simulate distributing vaccinations if there were ever an emergency event necessitating rapid vaccination.


HSPH Department 
G56 Hill Center
Ithaca College • 953 Danby Road • Ithaca, NY 14850