MPH GeoHealth Concentration

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Become a Public Health Leader in Spatial Frontiers with GeoHealth

Through a groundbreaking collaboration at the University of Southern California, online students in the internationally recognized Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Master of Public Health can specialize in GeoHealth by completing four spatial sciences concentration courses offered by the top-ranked USC Spatial Sciences Institute.

 Learn more and apply now 

Why USC GeoHealth?

In the Master of Public Health GeoHealth concentration, the first specialization of its kind, you have an exclusive opportunity to:

  • Develop your leadership skills as a spatially-enabled health professional.
  • Explore how geographical contexts shape health outcomes, trends and inequalities.
  • Discover why public health increasingly relies on spatial sciences.

The connections between public health and spatial sciences can be traced back to 1854, when Dr. John Snow used a map to identify the source of the contaminated water that spawned the cholera outbreak in Soho, England. Over 150 years later, subspecialties throughout public health increasingly rely on spatial sciences across the entire disease and human health spectrum, from fundamental science in disease causation (with an increased emphasis on environmental exposure assessment) to the assessment of the impact of health interventions at a global scale. Public health practitioners use Geographic Information Systems to develop effective frameworks for local, regional, national, and global action. Public health researchers aim to understand the geographic patterns that connect people, places, economic factors, and cultural values with well-being.

Read about "Spatially explicit models for exploring COVID-19 lockdown strategies" published in Transactions in GIS.


Sara Schubert
Jeannette Ban


The GeoHealth track of the Master of Public Health online program is designed to prepare your critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills, which are fundamental to spatial analysis, visualization and problem-solving. Through a combination of foundational and track-specific courses, you can gain an in-depth understanding of how public health functions in today’s world and how you can make an impact through spatial methods and analysis. In addition, the practicum provides you with an up-close-and-personal experience in a community agency to further enhance your understanding of public health as a whole and the important role that the spatial sciences play in maintaining and improving people’s health and well-being.

Students will develop individual and small group projects to develop and apply their coursework, the themes and goals of which could spring from their current professional work or from potential future career opportunities. Spatial Sciences Institute and MPH faculty collaborate to advise and guide GeoHealth students in spatially-related capstone projects.

Offered in a flexible online format, the 16-unit MPH GeoHealth concentrationcan be completed in as few as 2 years.

Students in the GeoHealth Concentration take four required concentration courses offered by the Spatial Sciences Institute (16 units):

The unique characteristics and importance of spatial information as they relate to the evolving science, technology and applications of Geographic Information Systems.
Examination of the process of geographic abstraction and modeling in relation to the different data models and spatial analysis operations available in current GIS.
Principles of visual perception, spatial cognition and cartographic design and their contributions to the maps, animations, virtual reality and multimedia displays produced with modern GIS.
Design, coding, and implementation of mobile GIS applications using the Java and Javascript object-oriented programming languages.


For individuals who want to work at the forefront of public health management, the field of geospatial health sciences provides a variety of career opportunities in local, regional, state, federal and international health agencies.

Organizations that recognize the importance of using GIS data, spatial analysis, and mapping in public health include:

  • American Public Health Association
  • Association of American Geographers
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network
  • Departments of Public Health
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Hewlett Foundation
  • National Cancer Institute
  • National Institutes of Health
  • National Library of Medicine
  • National Science Foundation
  • Urban and Regional Information Systems Association
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Trust for America’s Health
  • World Health Organization

Those interested in the geospatial distribution of health information include:

  • Policy makers
  • Journalists
  • Consumer groups
  • Academic researchers
  • Health officials

Those working at the intersection of geography and health also include health insurance providers and other users of bioinformatics and biostatistics, epidemiology and genetics of diseases, environmental health and health behavior research, including cancer, disease prevention and global health, environmental health and health behavior research.

Researchers in geohealth are exploring the adoption of spatial methods to understand better how place-based features and social characteristics affect health and human well-being and the integration of spatial methods, digital media and social networks to facilitate space-time research and spatial simulation in a series of health settings.

USC Faculty GeoHealth Research