An Integrative Curriculum for Undergraduate Public Health

April 30, 2019


In a new publication appearing in Frontiers in Public Health, Dr. Marc T. Kiviniemi of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health Department of Health, Behavior & Society, and Dr. Sarahmona M. Przbyla of the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions Department of Community Health and Health Behavior explore integrative approaches to developing curricular models for undergraduate public health programs.


The authors explain: “Many ‘first generation’ undergraduate public health degree programs were designed based on ‘siloed’ course structures centered around subunits in the discipline (e.g. Introduction to Epidemiology, Introduction to Environmental Health) that may be meaningful primarily to experts in the field. An alternative to the siloed approach is an integrative curricular design, in which courses are designed around meaningful thematic units (e.g. explaining public health problems, asking and answering scientific questions in public health) with an emphasis on drawing connections between knowledge from different but complementary disciplinary areas as a means to improve student learning and retention.”


“The integrative approach shifts the curriculum conversation to capitalize on the interdisciplinary roots of the public health profession,” write Kiviniemi and Przbyla. “This approach is consistent with the learning outcome recommendations in the Framing the Future Task Force report and in the CEPH requirements for the undergraduate public health major.”


In the current study, Kiviniemi and Przybla discuss both pedagogical and career preparation arguments supporting an integrative curriculum approach. These include facilitating the task -- often-challenging for students – of seeing how concepts interrelate, making transparent how “basic” knowledge in the discipline relates to “real world” applications of content, and better mirroring how professionals in the discipline actually use knowledge in practice. The authors also review examples of core concepts and features in an integrative curriculum approach to the undergraduate public health major as an effective educational program with high-quality, learner-centered educational experiences.



The University of Kentucky College of Public Health is a catalyst of positive change for population health, with a mission to develop health champions, conduct multidisciplinary and applied research, and collaborate with partners to improve health in Kentucky and beyond.