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Real-world learning, real-world solutions

Master of Public Health

This practice-based MPH program is focused on advancing health equity in rural communities and is a unique partnership with UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, the number one public school of public health in the nation, and UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC.

The Master of Public Health (MPH) Program in Asheville led by UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health provides training in core public health and rural health issues, healthcare transformation, and public health leadership skills in collaboration with community partners across rural Western North Carolina. Through sound research and the development of innovative interdisciplinary public health interventions, students become fluent in pursuing health equity in rural communities, addressing community health concerns, and navigating healthcare systems.   

Why Public Health?

Research demonstrates that public health has a strong influence on individual and community well-being, with some estimates showing public health factors accounting for more than 80% of health outcomes such as life expectancy, quality-adjusted life years, and mortality rates.1

Public health interventions are upstream solutions designed to prevent disease and promote wellness through individual, community, and systems-level change.

Why this Public Health Leadership Program?

The UNC Gillings School's MPH Program in Asheville offers the Leadership in Practice concentration within the Public Health Leadership Program (PHLP) at the Gillings School. PHLP has decades of experience offering both online and residential MPH courses. Since being established in the early 1990s, PHLP has graduated more than 1,400 public health professionals across the United States and globally to serve as leaders in national, state, and local settings. Public health leadership skills are urgently needed in clinical, community-based, and workplace settings, and at every level within these settings. Senior leaders are retiring, and growing new talent is a priority for governmental and non-governmental public health and clinical organizations.

To prepare graduates for roles in Public Health 3.0, we need to assure students are able to carry out core public health functions (assessment, policy development, and assurance) as they lead changes that contribute to our quality of life. The next generation of leaders needs critical thinking, design thinking, and systems thinking skills; the ability to advance knowledge from evidence-based research as well as practice-based evidence; and the ability to mobilize others to strategically align organizations and systems to accomplish broad-based change.

To be effective, public health leaders need to build strong relationships, not just with members of their own teams, but also with leaders from other sectors, disciplines, and political parties. Mobilizing people and systems requires public health professionals who are equipped to use a variety of leadership approaches and who are cognizant of when they need to adapt their own styles to engage others in supporting and promoting public health priorities.

Leadership in Practice Concentration

The Leadership in Practice concentration is a deep dive into how leadership skills apply in a public health context. This concentration assures public health practitioners in any discipline possess the knowledge and skills to lead teams, projects, organizations, and systems in addressing inequities, improving conditions, and fostering changes that enable people to enjoy quality of life wherever they work, play, and live.

Public Health Leadership in Practice Competencies

  1. Integrate research and practice-based evidence to identify, design, implement, or evaluate systems, structures, programs, policies, and practices that promote well-being and improve health where people live and work in local, national, or global settings.
  2. Develop innovative strategies to facilitate constructive dialogue and collaboration across health professions and with diverse stakeholders to create effective, sustainable, and resilient systems that address current and emerging public health challenges.
  3. Employ adaptive leadership skills and systems thinking to optimize the use and management of public health resources to reduce morbidity and mortality, improve well-being of individuals and communities, and advance health equity.
  4. Design multidimensional approaches to evaluate the processes, outcomes, and impacts of complex public health systems, programs, and policies.
  5. Disseminate findings that enhance the rapid translation of knowledge into policy and practice in clinical, community, and workplace settings.
  6. Demonstrate effective advocacy skills and high ethical standards in communicating and promoting public health priorities and leading change to affect those priorities.
  7. Adopt practices to engender leadership skills in others, recognizing and rewarding those whose work exemplifies the values, principles, and practices of public health leadership, professionalism, and commitment.

For what jobs, positions, and settings will this concentration prepare graduates?

The leadership in practice concentration is designed to support people at every level of public health practice. We recognize the need to equip people currently in public health management and leadership roles as well as the need to develop the next generation of public health leaders. The average age of students in the leadership track is 37, and students range from 25-61 years old. As such, people receiving this degree would be well equipped to move into a variety roles, commensurate with their level of experience. For example, our graduates are prepared to:

  • Step into senior leadership roles where they would be responsible for leading organizations and working with multidisciplinary leadership teams, governing boards, and system partners.
  • Work as mid-level program and organizational managers responsible for supervising and managing teams around complex research, community, and/or inter-organizational collaborations.
  • Serve as team leaders and in project management roles in local, state, national, and international clinical, public health organizations, and industries.


1Hartley, D. Rural health disparities, population health, and rural culture. American Journal of Public Health 2004; 94; 1675-1678.