College of Education and Professional Studies

Bachelor of Science in Community/Public Health

The Community/Public Health program at the University of Central Oklahoma is a SABPAC approved program. SABPAC (SOPHE-AAHE Baccalaureate Program Approval Committee) approval recognizes that the program prepares undergraduate students for entry into the workforce as community health educators (National Implementation Task Force for Accreditation in Health Education, 2014).

Community/Public Health is the application of a variety of methods that result in the identification and assessment of factors contributing to the health of a population. The community/public health professional is responsible for the mobilization and education of community members into actions to resolve health issues and problems that affect their community.

A community/public health specialist is a practitioner who is professionally prepared in the field of public health education who demonstrates competence in the planning, implementation, assessment, and evaluation of a broad range of health promoting programs for community groups. The practitioner helps communities maintain safe and healthy environments for their citizens and teaches skills that motivate populations or foster behaviors that lead to lifetime wellness. The ultimate professional mission of a community/public health practitioner is to prevent premature mortality and unnecessary disease and disability and promote health in all populations.

Student Learning Objectives

Career opportunities are broad, and the public health field continues to grow. Graduates of the program are prepared for employment in careers including but not limited to:

  • Health Administrator
  • Health Social Work
  • Public Health Educator
  • Environmental Specialist
  • Health Promotion Specialist
  • Program Manager
  • Wellness Coordinator
  • Grant Manager
  • Patient Advocate

Community/public health positions are found in all employment sectors:

  • Government (county and state departments of health as well as federal agencies such as CDC and NIH)
  • Nonprofit organizations (such as American Lung Association, Oklahoma Institute of Child Advocacy, and National Association of Mental Illness)
  • Private agencies (overseeing corporate wellness programs)

A few things to know about the Community/Public Health Program at UCO:

  • We are a nationally approved undergraduate program through SABPAC (The SOPHE-AAHE Baccalaureate Program Approval Committee) and are steadily growing.
  • We are housed in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies and the College of Education and Professional Studies here at UCO.
  • We are the first (and only) program at an academic institution in the state of Oklahoma with an Eta Sigma Gamma, national honor society for the health education profession, chapter.
  • We have a Community/Public Health Advisory Council made up of professionals in the field who refer to graduates of this program as “career ready.”
  • This program will incorporate your desire to help others with the skills needed to work with communities in order to improve the health of all.
  • We are actively engaged in the community with service learning projects incorporated into our classes on a regular basis.

The fundamental mission of the Community/Public Health degree is to provide the competencies necessary for the integration and application of basic knowledge, skills, and concepts from the core curriculum, supporting field, and electives to the specific knowledge base that is unique to the discipline of Community/Public Health.

Knowledgeable and passionate faculty are available to guide you through course work and provide hands-on experiences in the community. Some of the major courses that prepare you for this field include:

  • Leadership and Ethics in Health Education
  • Health Equity
  • Program Planning
  • Intro to Epidemiology
  • Health Administration and Policy
  • Consumer Health and Media Advocacy
  • Health Assessment and Evaluation
  • Healthy Aspects of Sexuality
  • Community Intervention
  • Health and Aging
  • Environmental Health  
  • Contemporary Issues in Drug Prevention

Additionally, students are further prepared for the field by:

  • Completing a 50-hour practicum with an agency to shadow a health educator in the field
  • Assessing a priority population in the community and then implementing an intervention
  • Planning a health promotion program and delivering it to diverse populations
  • Creating a media advocacy plan for partners
  • Completing a 320-hour internship that provides complete immersion in an agency in the field

Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)

Holding a Community/Public Health degree allows graduates to sit for the CHES Exam. Many positions in the field list “CHES required” or “CHES eligible” in the job description. Some positions provide a larger salary to employees with CHES credentials.

Research and Scholarly Activity

Students have ample opportunities to conduct research in the classroom and are also provided opportunities to lead their own research and creative projects with a faculty mentor or serve as a research assistant with Community/Public Health faculty.

Study Abroad

Study abroad opportunities are available in the program. In the past two years, 11 students have taken the Health Equity class in Seoul, South Korea during the month of July. Previous global opportunities included health promotion activities in Mexico as part of a medical team.

ESG Public Health Club

The Eta Sigma Gama (ESG) Public Health Club allows two membership levels: a student club for interested students, and an honorary organization for students who meet the requirements. ESG Public Health Club members are active on campus and throughout the community.

Helpful Links

For information on being CHES certified, visit The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing

Professional Associations

Public Health (and Related) Agencies


Community/Public Health Program Faculty – Scientific/Political Statement

Faculty in the Community/Public Health Program at UCO are committed to the exploration of the public health field through scientific inquiry and investigation. This consists of embracing health promotion, including the accurate dissemination of research through health education; the advancement of ongoing advocacy efforts; the support of public policy as guided by scientific study; and the continued improvement of physical, social, economic, and political determinants of health. As professionals in the field, we wholeheartedly believe that scientific research should ultimately drive public policy (rather than the other way around). We embrace the foundation of public health – which is social justice – and we hold true to the belief that “all policy that impacts the health of populations is health policy.” Research and dissemination of health education on a host of topics (e.g. teen pregnancy prevention, gun violence prevention, climate change, racism, health equity, access to healthcare, living wage advocacy, etc.) are often politicized in our society - despite the fact that these issues directly influence the longevity and quality of life among populations and thus, should be researched and discussed rather than ignored due to polarization.

It is a core professional value among our program faculty to continue to research, discuss, and advocate for best practices on a host of public health matters that significantly impact the lives of those we serve. Ethically, we owe it to you – our students – as well as to the broader communities we serve, to ensure that your education provides both breadth and depth on these topics, while addressing the relevant factors of our field. Ultimately, we concern ourselves with the improvement of the public’s health and your education as a future practitioner over and above any controversy surrounding what is credible research. For this reason, our faculty consistently share credible and reliable research, best practices, and data on pertinent public health issues. We ensure that your education includes feedback on how to work in cultural and political climates; however, we do not address these topics based on politics nor are we swayed from our commitment to social justice based on any given political climate. Instead, we focus our work and promote health for broad populations and diverse communities based on scientific study and best practices in our field.

For questions about the Community/Public Health major, please contact Dr. Sunshine Cowan

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