About the UNC-Asheville-UNC Gillings MPH
The UNC Asheville-UNC Gillings Master of Public Health (MPH) is an MPH degree program offered jointly by both UNC Asheville and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health on the campus of the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) in Asheville, N.C.

The joint MPH degree is a full-time course of study requiring 40 hours a week of dedicated time. Courses include on-site classes one day per week as well as remote classes on evenings other days of the week. This program can be completed in four semesters, not including summers. Graduates will receive a single diploma issued by both institutions, UNC Asheville and the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. Graduates will be prepared to step into leadership roles in all systems that impact health, including local and state agencies and community-based organizations.

About the Place-Based Health Concentration

The concentration in Place-Based Health centers people and their communities as the catalyst for transforming systems to promote wellbeing for all. The joint MPH program features small cohorts of up to 24 students, case and community-based activities, and instruction by interdisciplinary faculty and community practitioners who bring real-world experience to the classroom.

What You'll Learn

Through our Place-Based Health concentration, you will increase your confidence in developing, supporting, and sustaining collaborations that contribute to more equitable systems and better lives.

You will develop skills to:

Assess, promote, and enact health equity in systems, organizations, and communities.

Learn place-based approaches through courses, field trips, guest panels of practitioners, hands-on experiences, and culminating team projects that help WNC communities.

Practice transforming systems through problem-based learning, by assessing system dynamics and leverage points, clearly and persuasively sharing critical health information, developing and sustaining relationships, and informing policymakers.

Support and engage in community transformations using community-based participatory research and action methods.

Conduct research and evaluate programs to contribute to the knowledge base and advance public health practice.

Deepen knowledge and awareness to lead transformation of self, public health teams, and change efforts.

The Place-Based Health concentration is designed to support professionals in all areas of public health practice at every level of leadership whether entry-level public health practitioners, program managers, evaluators, public health directors, executives or someone in between.

In this concentration, you will develop the leadership skills needed to build strong relationships with members of your own team as well as with leaders from other sectors, political ideologies and disciplines. Upon graduation, you will be prepared to:

Step into public health leadership roles in which you may work with interprofessional leadership teams, governing boards, community and system partners.

Work as a program or organizational manager responsible for supervising teams that focus on community-based participatory research and multi-sector community collaborations.

This program will provide you with the knowledge and skills to achieve the following core competencies:

PBH01. Analyze the concept of place in multiple disciplines and in the context of key public health issues locally in Western NC and adapt these concepts to other settings.

PBH02. Apply deeper knowledge and awareness to facilitate transformation of self and public health teams in order to implement multi-level change efforts.

PBH 03. Design applied research studies to explore a question of place-based public health importance.

PBH 04. Apply principles and examples of community-led change that support, promote, and advocate for healthy and just communities.

PBH05. Apply principles of systems and design thinking to analyze systems and identify changes that promote health and social equity.

PBH 06. Synthesize principles of individual, community, and systems transformation to co-create approaches with the potential to sustainably improve the social drivers of health and ultimately actualize health equity.

Required Courses & Sample Plan of Study

In addition to the 14-credit Gillings MPH core, students will take seven concentration-specific courses on topics such as place-based theory, research and evaluation methods and systems transformation.

PUBH 734. Place-Based Theory in Public Health

PUBH 736. Individual Transformation Applied to Public Health and Place

PUBH 737. Place-Based Research and Evaluation Methods

PUBH 738. Place-Based Community Transformation

PUBH 739. Place-Based Systems Transformation

PUBH 740. Implementation of Place-Based Theory and Design in Public Health

PUBH 992. Place-Based Health MPH Culminating Experience

Fall 2023 Cohort: Placed-Based Health Concentration Degree Requirements and Plan of Study (PDF)
Fall 2024 Cohort: Placed-Based Health Concentration Degree Requirements and Plan of Study (PDF)


Sarah Brill Thach, MPH

Sarah is Co-Director of the UNC Asheville - UNC Gillings MPH program and teaches in the UNC Asheville – UNC Gillings MPH Program. She has promoted rural medical education Western North Carolina (WNC); developed models to help primary care physicians care for geriatric patients; trained WNC health educators and broad-based health partnerships in assessing and addressing community health needs; created faculty development for community-based physician-teachers; and developed school-based health centers in West Virginia.

Career Opportunities

Our Graduates Work As...
Public Health Educator
Project Manager
Program coordinator
Implementation Specialist
Public Health Analyst
Our Graduates Work With...
Government agencies
Nonprofit organizations
Community health centers
Public health departments
Colleges and universities

99% of Gillings graduates have a job or continue their education within one year of graduating.

The MPH Degree

The Master of Public Health is a competency-based, practice-oriented degree program, designed to provide you with a breadth and depth of knowledge and skills in public health principles and practice through didactic preparation and applied learning experiences. Upon successful completion of the MPH program, you will be able to demonstrate to current or future employers a valuable set of competencies that will enhance your ability to achieve your professional goals while contributing to improvements in public health. You are encouraged to specify competencies mastered on your resume and describe your applied learning experiences during interviews, as evidence of your marketable skills, knowledge and experiences.

The MPH Core

The MPH Core curriculum includes foundational public health knowledge identified as essential for effective public health professionals where students master 12 public health learning objectives and 22 MPH competencies defined by Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), the specialized accrediting agency for public health education. Integrated from beginning to end, the MPH Core provides a strong foundation from which to build more specialized expertise. We are preparing public health practitioners and leaders for the 21st century. You’ll apply the skills and knowledge you gain in real-time. You’ll work to understand complex public health problems that we face here in North Carolina, the United States and around the world. You will take classroom ideas, theories and concepts and move them to action. Fall semester, you will attain the content, information and methodological skills to define and understand complex public health problems. In the spring, you will explore strategies for developing multilevel policy proposals and interventions to solve complex problems. Taken together, the MPH Core will give you the knowledge, skills and methods you need to thrive in the practicum of your choice and to succeed as you move into your specialized concentration focus and beyond.

Required MPH Core Courses

  • SPHG 711. Data Analysis for Public Health
  • SPHG 712. Methods and Measures for Public Health Practice
  • SPHG 713. Systems Approaches to Understanding Public Health Issues
  • SPHG 721. Public Health Solutions: Systems, Policy and Advocacy
  • SPHG 722. Developing, Implementing & Evaluating Public Health Solutions
  • SPHG 701. Leading from the Inside-Out

Public Health Foundational Learning Objectives

Profession and Science of Public Health
FLO01.    Explain public health history, philosophy, and values.
FLO02.    Identify the core functions of public health and the 10 Essential Services.1
FLO03.    Explain the role of quantitative and qualitative methods and sciences in describing and assessing a population’s health.
FLO04.    List major causes and trends of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. or other communities relevant to the school or program.
FLO05.    Discuss the science of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention in population health, including health promotion, screening, etc.
FLO06.    Explain the critical importance of evidence in advancing public health knowledge.

Factors Related to Human Health
FLO07.    Explain the effects of environmental factors on a population’s health.
FLO08.    Explain biological and genetic factors that affect a population’s health.
FLO09.    Explain behavioral and psychological factors that affect a population’s health.
FLO10.    Explain the social, political, and economic determinants of health and how they contribute to population health and health inequities.
FLO11.    Explain how globalization affects global burdens of disease.
FLO12.    Explain an ecological perspective on the connection among human health, animal health, and ecosystem health (e.g., One Health).

MPH Foundational Competencies

Evidence-Based Approaches to Public Health
MPH01.  Apply epidemiological methods to settings and situations in public health practice.
MPH02.  Select quantitative and qualitative data collection methods appropriate for a given public health context.
MPH03.  Analyze quantitative and qualitative data using biostatistics, informatics, computer-based programming and software, as appropriate.
MPH04.  Interpret results of data analysis for public health research, policy or practice.

Public Health and Health Care Systems
MPH05.  Compare the organization, structure and function of health care, public health and regulatory systems across national and international settings.
MPH06.  Discuss the means by which structural bias, social inequities and racism undermine health and create challenges to achieving health equity at organizational, community and systemic levels.

Planning and Management to Promote Health
MPH07.  Assess population needs, assets and capacities that affect communities’ health.
MPH08.  Apply awareness of cultural values and practices to the design, implementation, or critique of public health policies or programs.
MPH09.  Design a population-based policy, program, project or intervention.
MPH10.  Explain basic principles and tools of budget and resource management.
MPH11.  Select methods to evaluate public health programs.

Policy in Public Health
MPH12.  Discuss the policy-making process, including the roles of ethics and evidence.
MPH13.  Propose strategies to identify stakeholders and build coalitions and partnerships for influencing public health outcomes.
MPH14.  Advocate for political, social or economic policies and programs that will improve health in diverse populations.
MPH15.  Evaluate policies for their impact on public health and health equity.

MPH16.  Apply leadership and/or management principles to address a relevant issue.
MPH17.  Apply negotiation and mediation skills to address organizational or community challenges.

MPH18.  Select communication strategies for different audiences and sectors.
MPH19.  Communicate audience-appropriate (i.e., non-academic, non-peer audience) public health content, both in writing and through oral presentation.
MPH20.  Describe the importance of cultural competence in communicating public health content.

Interprofessional and/or Intersectoral Practice
MPH21.  Integrate perspectives from other sectors and/or professions to promote and advance population health.

Systems Thinking
MPH22.  Apply a systems thinking tool to visually represent a public health issue in a format other than standard narrative.


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award baccalaureate, masters, educational specialist, and doctorate degrees. Degree-granting institutions also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (www.sacscoc.org).

The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health maintains accreditation governed by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).  For additional information about the school’s accreditation status, contact Tina Ruff at UNC or contact CEPH at https://ceph.org/.

Addressing social drivers of health and actualizing health equity
Ready to apply?
Concentration Leader: Sarah Brill Thach

Academic Coordinator: Joe Jacobs