The Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree is a practice-based doctorate degree in the field of public health, established in 1919 by the American Public Health Association Committee of Sixteen on the Standardization of Public Health Training.

The DrPH received a major boost In 1988, when an Institute of Medicine report,  The Future of Public Health, identified the rift between schools/programs of public health and public health practice (1, 3). The report promoted the need to integrate research science into public health practice. In 2003, a follow-up to the 1988 report was published by the Institute of Medicine, Who Will Keep Us Healthy?, Gebbie et al. mention that the MPH degree is the basic public health degree while the DrPH degree provides advanced training in public health leadership (1, 3).

In 2005 the Council on Education in Public Health (CEPH) revised its accreditation criteria for Schools of Public Health, requiring a school to increase the previous expectation of one doctoral degree to “at least three doctoral degree programs that are relevant to any of the five areas of basic public health knowledge.” (1, 2). In 2007, a task force was established to study the DrPH degree. In 2008, Declerq et al., published a study that showed a 40%  increase in students enrolled in DrPH programs (4). The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) developed competencies for DrPH students: are advocacy, communication, community and cultural orientation, critical analysis, leadership, management, professionalism and ethics, and policy analysis and development (1, 5).

A study by Lee et al., in 2009 found that the main challenges of the DrPH degree were: 1) integration and adoption of the DrPH curricula within traditional research-oriented university environments and 2) gaining equal respect (1, 6).

Recent figures from the  Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) show the significant growth in enrollment of DrPH students at schools and programs of public health between 1985-2018 (Figure 1). With the recent surge of students and alumni of the DrPH degree, the field is moving toward a focus on more practice-based competencies.  In an evolving world, these practice-based competencies are increasingly important to the field of public health.


We would like to acknowledge, Dr. Gene Declerq of Boston University School of Public Health for providing us with this graph.


  1. Sherman, B. R., Hoen, R., Lee, J. M., & Declercq, E. R. (2016). Doctor of Public Health Education and Training. Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974)132(1), 115-120.

  2. Council on Education in Public Health. Schools of public health accreditation criteria—amended June 2011.  Available from: URL:

  3. Gebbie K, Rosenstock L, Hernandez LM, editors. Institute of Medicine Committee on Educating Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century. Who Will Keep the Public Healthy? Educating Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2003.

  4. Declercq, E., Caldwell, K., Hobbs, S. H., & Guyer, B. (2008). The changing pattern of doctoral education in public health from 1985 to 2006 and the challenge of doctoral training for practice and leadership. American journal of public health98(9), 1565-1569.

  5. ASPH Education Committee. Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) Core Competency Model Version 1.3. Washington, DC: Association of Schools of Public Health; 2009.

  6. Lee JM, Furner SE, Yager J, Hoffman D. A review of the status of the doctor of public health degree and identification of future issues. Public Health Rep. 2009;124(1):177–183.