Public Health BA

Public health poverty simulation

Program Description

Public health is one of the most exciting and fastest growing career fields in the nation. Through a degree in public health, you'll learn how to conduct disease prevention and health education activities in populations, such as towns, states, villages, communities, and neighborhoods. You learn how to assess a population, determine the main health issues affecting that community, plan and implement appropriate programs and interventions to address these needs and evaluate the effectiveness of those strategies.

Public health specialists work in a wide variety of settings, including county and state health departments, gyms, corporate wellness sites, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, schools, clinics and community centers. This is an ideal major if you want to help others, but want to take more of a social science approach to connecting with individuals and their communities. Public health teaches you about the many complex factors that contribute to health and well-being in a community, such as education, literacy, economics, cultural values, politics, resources, lifestyle practices and geographic location.

You will focus your studies on one of five specialty tracks as you earn this specialized B.A. degree:

  • Public health: community nutrition
  • Public health: environmental health. The future holds tremendous opportunities for graduates of this field.  Environmental health specialists study how various factors in the environment impact human health, with particular information paid to air, food and water quality.  
  • Public health: global health.  As a global public health specialist, you may focus on the needs of immigrants, refugees, minorities, rural farm families, and other diverse and underserved populations.  This emphasis provides a strong focus on service learning projects, preparing graduates to work in government programs such as nonprofit agencies, public health departments, hospitals and clinics.
  • Public health: wellness and fitness
  • Public health: women's health.  Sex and gender are important factors in the prevention and treatment of fitness and disease, and women are the largest consumers of health care, products and services. Our alumni are working in various settings, such as hospitals, state and local public health departments, nonprofit agencies and health/wellness centers.

You can declare more than one specialty area and still complete coursework in four years. Other students combine a major in public health with a related bachelor's degree on campus, such as exercise science, athletic training, anthropology, women's studies or geography.

An increasing number of students earning a B.A. in public health at UNI also choose to continue on to earn a master's degree in community health to earn an even higher salary in administration.


  • Fitness specialist
  • Corporate wellness
  • Hospital and clinic programming
  • Nutrition programming
  • School health education
  • Peace Corps and AmeriCorps 
  • Health coaching
  • Emergency management and disaster relief
  • Environmental and occupational health
  • County and state health department programming

Why UNI for public health?

  • The need. Public health is one of the fastest growing careers in the nation. 
  • Choice and flexibility. You have five tracks, two minors and five certificates to choose from, and can combine areas to broaden your skills, knowledge and employability.  
  • Experience. You gain hands-on learning through a nine-credit-hour field internship before graduation with placements locally, across the United States or around the world.



Megan Maahs public health, health promotion“UNI has been great, amazing, not only from a basketball standpoint, but educational, too. All the classes I’ve taken, from implementing to evaluating health promotions ideas, it added different pieces into my puzzle. Hopefully I can use those tools for the future...UNI has also allowed me to open other doors to other things in my life that I would never have gotten exposed to. I think that’s how I ended up making the choices I did.” --Megan Maahs ('20, B.A., health promotion). Learn more about Megan. 


 As of February 2021, the public health and education major was renamed, simply, public health.  All five public health tracks require the following courses:

  • Introduction to Statistical Methods
  • Introduction to Public Health
  • Human Diseases
  • Environmental Health Science
  • Epidemiological Methods, Research Design and Analysis

Each track also requires completion of an internship (3 cr) and field experience (3 to 9 cr). 

Public Health: Community Nutrition

Total Credit Hours: 120
Liberal Arts Courses: 41 
Electives:  23 

Additional required majors courses: 

  • Minority Health
  • Basic Nutrition
  • Public Health Theory
  • Cultural Competency for the Helping Professions
  • Planning and Evaluating Health Promotion Programs
  • International Health
  • Nutrition for Early Childhood Education
  • Global Service Mission
  • Health Promotion Implementation and Advocacy
  • Nutrition for Health Promotion

Full plan of study

Public Health: Science-Intensive Environmental Health
Total Credit Hours: 120
Liberal Arts Core: 33 hours
Electives: 35

Required majors courses: 

  • General Biology: Organismal Diversity
  • General Biology:Cell Structure and Function
  • General Chemistry I
  • General Chemistry II
  • General Microbiology
  • Environmental and Occupational Health Regulations
  • Environmental and Occupational Health Regulations
  • Human Toxicology for Environmental and Occupational Health: Principles and Applied Case Studies

Full plan of study

Public Health: Global Health and Humanitarian Assistance
Total Credit Hours: 120
Liberal Arts Core: 39
Electives: 34

Required majors courses: 

  • Minority Health
  • Cultural Competency for the Helping Professions
  • Planning and Evaluating Health Promotion Programs
  • Epidemiological Methods, Research Design and Analysis
  • International Health
  • Global Service Mission
  • Health Promotion Implementation and Advocacy
  • Nutrition for Health Promotion

Full plan of study

Public Health: Wellness and Fitness
Total Credit Hours: 120
Liberal Arts Core: 41
Electives: 22

Required majors courses: 

  • Anatomy and Physiology of Human Movement
  • Public Health Theory
  • Planning and Evaluating Health Promotion Programs
  • Worksite Health Promotion
  • Teaching Aerobics
  • Stress Management
  • Health Care and the Consumer
  • Physiology of Exercise
  • Health Promotion Implementation and Advocacy
  • Fitness Assessment and Programming

Full plan of study

Public Health: Women's Health
Total Credit Hours: 160
Liberal Arts Courses: 32 hours
Electives: 21 hours 

Required Courses: 

  • Women and Gender Studies: Introduction
  • Maternal and Infant Health
  • Public Health Theory
  • Introduction to Women's Health
  • Planning and Evaluating Health Promotion Programs
  • Selected Topics in Women's Health
  • Nutrition for Health Promotion
  • Health Promotion Implementation and Advocacy

Full plan of study



Program Faculty and Staff

Primary Faculty and Staff Contacts
Barbara Bakker Image
Instructor, Public Health
Disa Cornish
Associate Professor, Public Health
Diane E. Depken, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, Public Health
Michele Devlin, Dr.P.H.
Professor, Public Health & Director, Iowa Center on Health Disparities
Susan Roberts-Dobie, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Public Health & Graduate Coordinator, Community Health and Recreation
Catherine Zeman, Ph.D.
Professor, Public Health & Director, Recycling & Reuse Technology Transfer Center


The public health program at UNI includes many meaningful opportunities for hands-on learning before graduation, with classes that combine field experiences with academic training. All students participate in a semester-long internship prior to graduation in a health-related agency of their choice, either locally, in the United States, or around the world. Previous interns have served in agencies ranging from the YWCA and county health departments, to organizations affiliated with the United Nations. Many students also take the opportunity to participate in medical missions in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, or in study abroad activities for academic credit.

Frequently Asked Questions