Master of Science in Community Health and Social Justice


Grounded in anti-racist, anti-oppression, social justice, and feminist theory, the Master of Science in Community Health and Social Justice aligns itself with the school's vision and mission. It intends to address the urgent need for health professionals who understand the root causes of inequities and have the education to address them. Through the learning objectives and curriculum, students learn to address the impacts of structural and institutional racism, and other forms of discrimination which have produced inequities in the United States. 

Understanding community health and social justice 

  • Community health focuses on primary prevention and improving quality of life and well-being within a defined geographic area or group. Community health involves preventing disease and improving health equity by addressing social, behavioral, environmental, economic, political, and physical/biological factors.  Effective and sustainable community health programs, campaigns, and resources engage different stakeholders, especially those from the community in focus,  as partners in the co-development process. [3]​
  • ​Social justice is the concept that everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities, including the right to health, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, or other factors. [1] Social justice is the fair and just distribution of resources and opportunities within a society. [2] Social justice also encompasses efforts to challenge and change systems of oppression and discrimination. [2]
    Social justice can take many forms, including:
    health justice  racial justice  gender justice 
    climate justice  economic justice educational justice 
    sexual justice  legal and restorative justice  disability justice and
    occupational justice  housing justice  decolonization/anti-colonialism

Community health and social justice are related

Community health and social justice influence each other. Social determinants of health, such as poverty, education, racism, and access to healthcare, can greatly affect health outcomes and disparities. Addressing these factors is crucial for improving health equity.

Conversely, addressing community health issues can also help to address social injustices, as healthier individuals and communities are better able to participate in and advocate for social change.

Community health and social justice work together to create a society where all people can thrive.

How we promote community health and social justice

There are a variety of theories, strategies, and tools used to promote community health and social justice (and you will learn about many in this program!). Some examples include (but not limited to):

  • creating, implementing, and evaluating culturally relevant health interventions, which includeSJCH-image.PNG educational resources, programs, and communication campaigns;
  • using strengths based approaches that leverage the wisdom and power of groups most affected by exclusionary and oppressive systems;
  • applying decolonizing methods that attempt to undo the harmful  political, economic, and historical effects of colonialism and to restore self-government and self-determination, rights, and sovereignty to indigenous and Native communities;
  • advocating for more fair and  just laws that improve health and human rights;
  • leading and managing organizations and agencies to bring about systems-level change;
  • using evidence based approaches to create and to determine innovative solutions to pressing community health challenges.

Difference between community health and public health

Public health is a broader field that aims to improve the health of entire populations, while community health is a sub-discipline within public health that focuses more at the local level, improving health and quality of life within a specific geographic area or with a particular group. [3]

If we aspire to achieve health for all, we have to understand the root systems, structural factors, and history that perpetuate exclusion and injustice. In this program, we will explore these issues using critical, intersectional, and interdisciplinary frameworks. Along the way, you'll gain applied skills to lead and to create programs, services, and policies that help to dismantle what's broken and create more just and equitable solutions.
Jody Early, PhD, MS, MCHES®, CHC (she/her/hers)

Dr. Niitsu

"What’s so unique about our program is the interdisciplinary approach that we take. For example, you’ll be able to learn from professors with a variety of backgrounds, such as nursing, social   work, law, public health, nutrition, naturopathic medicine, pathobiology, and many more!"
Kosuke "Ko" Niitsu, PhD, ARNP, PMHNP-BC, Assistant Professor (he/him/his)

[1] American Public Health Association [APHA]. What is social justice?
​[2] John Lewis Institute for Social Change. Our definition of social justice.
[3] Goodman, R. A., Bunnell, R., & Posner, S. F. (2014). What is "community health"? Examining the meaning of an evolving field in public health. Preventive medicine, 67 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S58–S61.

Updated February 2023