The USC Keck School of Medicine has launched a GeoHealth track as part of the Master of Public Health online program. This specialty is the first of its kind.

“We are excited to pioneer this specialized online education opportunity for the public health community,” said Shubha Kumar, PhD, MPH, program director. “Public Health practitioners increasingly recognize the value geographic information systems can add in developing effective frameworks for action in local, national, and regional contexts. The courses offered in the GeoHealth track along with practicum opportunities will allow students passionate about improving public health to make a unique and lasting impact in their communities and the world.”

GIS-based mapping and analysis is one of the various areas of employment that students enrolled in USC’s Master of Public Health online program can now pursue. Dating as early as the 1850s, the geospatial sciences helped create the foundation of public health. They continue to be of importance today, especially as technologies become more sophisticated and the data they deliver become more critical to research and decision-making.

“Being able to map patterns of disease or the supply of healthcare facilities in relation to population needs provides information key to advancing public health,” said Jonathan Samet, MD, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine.

USC’s online Master of Public Health with a track in GeoHealth prepares students to better understand how geographic and social characteristics affect health and well-being. The program is built upon five foundation courses in public health, an elective and a practicum. These core courses focus on concepts such as health education and promotion, health services delivery in the United States, biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health and occupational health.

In addition to the foundation courses, students will complete four concentration courses through the top-ranked USC Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI), directed by John Wilson, PhD. The SSI teaches the power and importance of spatial thinking and cultivates the ability to make connections between place and space. Students are taught how to view the world with a spatial lens to make spatially driven decisions, analyze data visually and affect human well-being with actionable research.

“The groundbreaking collaboration between the Keck School of Medicine and the Spatial Sciences Institute is what makes the GeoHealth specialization curriculum unique, robust, and dynamic,” said Mark Todd, PhD, associate provost for academic affairs.

The GeoHealth track can be particularly valuable to individuals currently working or interested in working in government agencies at the local, state and federal levels, as well as research institutions and nonprofit organizations.