Population-level solutions to health issues.

Program highlights: Biological aspects of public health, Environmental health, Health policy and management, Social and behavioral health


Sustained improvement of the health of communities requires an interdisciplinary approach that involves the biomedical, social, behavioral, political and environmental sciences, and consideration of the cultural context. The Global and Public Health Sciences (GPHS) major applies this comprehensive perspective to public health research, problems, and solutions.

The population-level work of public health professionals is distinct from that of clinical professionals who typically treat individuals after they have become sick or injured. Public health actions often involve educational and/or governmental approaches that influence many people simultaneously to address issues such as obesity and chronic disease; food insecurity; health disparities; infectious diseases; and access to health care.

The GPHS major is offered by the College of Human Ecology (CHE) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). In the College of Human Ecology, topics in microbiology, nutrition and disease, nutrition and global health, social inequalities in physical and mental health, the U.S. healthcare system, reproductive health, and risk analysis and management are addressed in focus areas including Biological Aspects of Public Health; Environmental Health; Health Policy and Management; and Social and Behavioral Health. CALS students combine their work in public health with  coursework in food systems, agriculture, and the broader life sciences.

The major is distinguished amongst public health programs, as it requires a foundation in the life and physical sciences, including general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physiology, which is complemented by coursework in epidemiology and biostatistics. CHE students also complete coursework in the social sciences, humanities, writing, and math. 

Review our curriculum sheets (updated each year) to better understand how the major is organized.

Introduction to Public Health (NS 1600) provides the basic principles, practices, and policies of public health, including an introduction to the infrastructure and organization of public health; methods of data collection and surveillance; disease promotion and prevention; health disparities; and achievements, challenges, and controversies in the field.

Introduction to Global Health (NS 2600) explores contemporary global health topics, issues, and controversies. The global burden of disease is introduced and students examine complex social, economic, political, environmental, and biological factors that structure the origins and consequences of global health problems and potential solutions. The core modules of this course focus on HIV/AIDS, maternal mortality, and water/sanitation and hygiene.

Epidemiology (NS 3600) uses didactic lectures, classroom discussions, applied projects, and in-depth case studies to explore epidemiologic research, including disease occurrence, measures of association, causal inference in quantitative research, and applications of epidemiologic methods to global and public health research. Epidemiologic principles in the design, conduct, and interpretation of findings from observational and experimental studies will be explored.

Nutrition and Global Health (NS 3060) introduces students to nutritional problems in the global community through evaluation of the scientific literature and exploration of epidemiological, biological, demographic, and social factors that affect nutritional status. Students will think critically about the major challenges to improve nutrition with applications to infectious diseases, maternal and child health, and non-communicable diseases.

Toward a Sustainable Global Food System: Food Policy for Developing Countries (NS 4450) is a comprehensive presentation and discussion of policy options for a sustainable global food system, with focus on developing countries. Topics include economic policy related to nutrition, health, consumption, production, natural resource management, trade, markets, gender roles, armed conflict, and ethics.

All GPHS students are required to complete an experiential component in a research or community setting where they are challenged to engage with the content of their courses. Students gain a deeper understanding of public health issues and problems, and have the opportunity to enhance research, writing, and critical thinking by applying knowledge and skills learned in the classroom in a greater context.

Supervised experiential learning locations and capstone course

Students may select from a variety of opportunities to fulfill the experiential learning component of the major. Many students independently source an appropriate experience, approved by the Division, in the local community, an academic/research setting, or an international setting. Students may also apply to select pre-approved experiences for example, Cornell in Washington, Cornell Global Health Summer Program in India. 

Explorations in Global and Public Health (NS 4600) serves as the major’s capstone course and is taken upon completion of the experiential learning component. As a result of the experience, students demonstrate their ability to collaborate, develop a holistic understanding of a public health problem, and design practical, effective, and ethical solutions.

Internship Examples

Health Communications Intern, Americares/CDC Vaccinate with Confidence Nutrition and Education Intern, Cornell Cooperative Extension 
Partnerships Intern, Partnership for a Healthier America
Research Assistant, Odoms-Young Nutrition Liberation, Food Sovereignty, and Justice Lab at Cornell 
Research Fellow, Food and Drug Administration

Undergraduates play a critical role in the development, implementation, and analysis of research inquiries as participants on faculty research teams, as well as through independent research projects.

Faculty research areas of specialization include malnutrition and health issues in developing countries; evaluation and classification of polycystic ovarian morphology; the role of diet in reducing the risk of diseases; health equity; the relationship of diet and exercise to body composition; maternal and child nutrition; and the design of educational materials.

Research examples

  • Anemia and micronutrient deficiencies in female adolescents in Southern India
  • Evaluating adherence to Vitamin D supplementation guidelines in hospitalized Baffin Island infants
  • Examining factors associated with pica behavior among pregnant and postpartum women in western Kenya
  • Studying the relationships between dengue fever and anthropometric measures in coastal Ecuador

Honors program

The Honors Program is designed for research-oriented Global and Public Health Sciences majors. During their junior year, each student in the Honors Program participates in a course on professional research in the health sciences and plans an independent research project under the direction of a faculty member. Each student completes a thesis and presents a seminar on the research problem at the end of their senior year.

Opportunities in public health are growing given an anticipated gap in public health professionals. Career tracks include health education, international health, infectious disease, environmental health, health policy management, epidemiology, and biostatistics.

In addition, students can pursue public service, research, social entrepreneurship, and other health-related careers domestically and globally. The major is particularly appropriate for those interested in leadership positions in organizations that deal directly with current and emerging health concerns.

Graduate/Professional school

Students will be prepared to pursue advanced professional graduate education in medicine, public health, allied health sciences (e.g., dentistry, nursing), law, and business. Additional graduate work possibilities include Masters programs in Biomedical Sciences and Global Health Economics, as well as Masters of Public Health programs (GPHS majors may apply to the select accelerated MPH program at Cornell), or programs such as the 4+1 Masters in Health Administration offered through the Brooks School of Public Policy’s Sloan Program, as well as PhD programs.

Sample Career Paths

Analyst, ClearView Healthcare Partners
Clinical Research Analyst, Northwell Health
Implementation Project Manager, Epic
Intake Coordinator, America Works of New York
Program Coordinator, Mt. Sinai Health System
Public Health Fellow, Skorton Center for Health Initiatives at Cornell Health
Research Fellow, National Cancer Institute
Strategy Analyst, Deloitte