Grounded in anti-racist, anti-oppression and social justice theory, the MS in Community Health & 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. Graduates will be equipped to address the impacts of structural and institutional racism, and other forms of discrimination which have produced inequities in the United States.

People with signs "we are the change"

Why community health and social justice together

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 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 takes on many forms, including:

  • health justice
  • climate justice 
  • sexual justice 
  • economic justice
  • legal and restorative justice 
  • housing justice
  • gender justice 
  • educational justice 
  • disability justice and

Learn how to promote community health and social justice

Graduates will be equipped to put into practice theories, strategies, and tools to promote community health and social justice, such as:

  • creating, implementing, and evaluating culturally relevant health interventions, which include 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 determine innovative solutions to pressing community health challenges.

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 skill to lead and create programs, services, and policies that help to dismantle what’s broken and create more just and equitable solutions.

Jody Early, Ph.D., MS, MCHES®, CHC (she/her/hers), Professor

[1] American Public Health Association [APHA]. What is social justicehttps://www.apha.org/what-is-public-health/generation-public-health/our-work/social-justice

​[2] John Lewis Institute for Social Change. Our definition of social justicehttps://www.fisk.edu/john-lewis-center-for-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 medicine67 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S58–S61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.07.028