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University of Pittsburgh    
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Dec 05, 2023
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Social Work, MPH/PhD

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The University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and the Graduate School of Public Health Center for Maternal and Child Health Leadership Training in Public Health Social Work (based in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences) program has been in operation since 1965 and represents a unique collaboration. The program’s primary objectives are to train social workers for leadership positions in public health systems and prepare them for research and teaching posts.

The program emphasizes a broad range of maternal and child health issues, including infant mortality reduction, adolescent health, youth and maternal substance abuse, services to children with disabilities, injury and violence prevention, child abuse and neglect, pediatric AIDS, and others. The program has excellent links with both the local and state maternal and child health systems as well as with the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Students have numerous opportunities to work with local organizations on a variety of planning, evaluation, and research activities. In recent years, a number of students have participated in federally sponsored summer internship experiences.

The program offers students a joint program to study for both a PhD in Social Work and a Master of Public Health (MPH).

The joint MPH/PhD program, is designed for social workers seeking administrative, policy, and/or academic positions. The overall training program clearly emphasizes leadership training rather than basic professional preparation. All trainees are Masters of Social Work (MSWs) (or equivalent) with at least two years of professional practice experience.

Master of Public Health/Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work | School of Social Work | University of Pittsburgh


The overall educational objective of the project is to provide the trainees with a “public health approach” to maternal and child health.

This involves:

  • a primary focus on populations at risk rather than individuals
  • use of an interdisciplinary approach
  • a focus on primary prevention of social and health problems
  • reliance on systematic data collection and analysis for administrative decision making

The learning objectives include:

  • Understanding incidence, prevalence, prevention, treatment, and epidemiological trends of the health and social needs of mothers and children
  • Becoming aware of the health and social work systems available for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation
  • Understanding the interrelationship of the identified population-at-risk with other populations needing maternal and child health services
  • Understanding the impact of socioeconomic, racial, cultural, geographical, and financial factors on health service delivery and use
  • Understanding the technical and legal issues related to service delivery to the population-at-risk
  • Understanding the implications of legislation and policy on program funding, planning and development, and patterns of service delivery

It is expected that graduates also will be prepared through the educational experience to:

  • Coordinate maternal and child health services within primary, secondary, and tertiary sites
  • Effectively access and allocate federal, state, county, and local resources for maternal and child health services
  • Develop and coordinate regional public health and social work services for mothers and children
  • Develop social work consultation and training skills and apply them to interdisciplinary settings
  • Use epidemiological data and statistics, and conduct community needs assessments to support program and policy development
  • Prepare technical reports, proposals, and publications

Academic Curriculum

The MPH/PhD curriculum comprises core courses in public health and social work, with a heavy emphasis on research methods and statistics. Specific classes on maternal and child health and public health social work are also required for this degree program. The following list of courses is provided as an example, as the exact course requirements may vary by student.


This joint degree requires the completion of a minimum of 81 credits, a comprehensive examination and successful defense of a dissertation. Graduate Students in the joint MPH/PhD program generally apply 12 credits from the MPH curriculum toward their elective course work for the PhD.

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