April 25, 2024

The Gillings School has received approval to launch a new Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) degree program in Community and Global Public Health (CGPH) for undergraduate students through the Department of Health Behavior.

The UNC System Board of Governors approved the new program on February 29.

Beginning this fall, students can begin applying for the new BSPH program. The first class of students will start in Aug. 2025.

Dr. Kurt Ribisl

Dr. Kurt Ribisl

“We are thrilled that the Board of Governors approved our new BSPH program. Nationally, more students now earn a BSPH degree than an MPH degree. Our new program will provide much-needed training to Carolina undergraduates interested in a career in community and global health,” said Kurt M. Ribisl, PhD, chair and Jo Anne Earp Distinguished Professor of the Department of Health Behavior.

The department began working on the program in 2019, just as new degree programs were paused during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Despite the pause in approving new degree programs, we continued our planning efforts and started offering new undergraduate classes taught by various faculty and staff at the Gillings School,” said Ribisl.

Patsy Polston, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior will serve as the new CGPH program director. Polston received her doctoral degree from the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and earned a minor in health behavior. She also serves as the faculty advisor for the Minority Student Caucus.

“I’m excited about our new BSPH program and looking forward to engaging with undergraduates as we collectively think towards solutions to address today’s pressing public health challenges,” said Polston. “We offered several of the required courses this past year and the undergraduate students have been phenomenal. Our teaching team eagerly awaits our first cohort of juniors in August 2025.”

Multidisciplinary program

The mission of the BSPH Program in Community and Global Public Health is to prepare students to work in partnership with local and global communities to identify and address health problems to achieve health equity.

The curriculum emphasizes equity-centered and high-impact practices such as team-based learning and experiential education and will offer more specialized training in data-driven community and systems-based public health.

Dr. Patsy Polston

Dr. Patsy Polston

The program will leverage a compendium of more than 300 community partners to provide opportunities for students to work with diverse stakeholders with coursework and immersive experiences. A partnership with other UNC system schools provides collaborative activities like joint seminars to offer shared learning opportunities with undergraduate students. There will also be opportunities for collaboration within UNC-Chapel Hill. For example, the Carolina Center for Public Service will offer additional undergraduate courses in the Department of Health Behavior.

Preparing future leaders in public health

The program is designed to build upon student interest in understanding the systems and behaviors that contribute to public health challenges such as climate change, water crises and the opioid epidemic. To address health behaviors, public health professionals must learn how to engage with communities in both local and global settings to identify public health threats and creative, community-driven solutions.

The new CGPH degree program aims to do just that.

Students will be required to fulfill a 150-hour experiential education internship with organizations that will provide them with practice-based opportunities, including a cohort-based learning model with individualized faculty mentor support.

The CGPH program will prepare students to work in both the U.S. and global contexts.

“I believe that the training and knowledge they will gain from the program will have a profound and transformative impact both locally and globally,” said Polston.

For more information about the BSPH program go to the Department of Health Behavior or contact Dr. Patsy Polston.

Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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