SOPHE publishes supplement on diversifying the public health workforce

Washington, DC – December 6, 2021 – The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE)’s peer-reviewed journal, Pedagogy in Health Promotion: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (PHP), published a supplement on the results of a 10-year program to expose diverse undergraduate students to public health research and practice. Ultimately, the program hopes to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in public health and healthcare, including biomedical sciences.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Undergraduate Public Health Scholars (CUPS) program, funded by the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE), supported five universities who recruited under-represented students with a minimum of two years of college education and who expressed interest in health equity and public health. The students were paired with mentors and supervisors who oversaw their experiential learning projects.

In a retrospective evaluation conducted with 2017-2020 CUPS participants, more than 80% reported pursuing degrees in biomedical sciences, public health, or health care (BSPHHC)–related fields. Two thirds of participants reported they had ever been employed in a career position or are working/have worked in BSPHHC-related fields. Many CUPS graduates credited the program with inspiring their interest, igniting their passion, and “opening doors” to first jobs and advanced public health education and training opportunities.

“Cultivating a diverse workforce is crucial to addressing health disparities and achieving equity for all populations,” writes Leandris Liburd, PhD, MPH, director of CDC’s OMHHE, in the PHP lead editorial. “The CUPS pedagogy enables classroom teaching and onsite learning that increases awareness of students’ strengths and unique talents, connects and matches students’ interests and skill sets to the needs of the larger community, and affords an opportunity for students to work in communities with which they may personally identify.”

The funded universities – Columbia, Michigan, Morehouse, Kennedy Krieger, and the University of California at Los Angeles – each hosted some 35-50 scholars annually in programs tailored to their unique environments and surrounding communities. However, each institution’s program addressed five core areas:

  1. Student recruitment and selection
  2. Academic enrichment/public health orientation
  3. Experiential learning projects
  4. Mentorship
  5. Networking and learning among alumni

The PHP supplement includes articles describing the distinctive academic approaches and lessons learned. A series of editorials from prominent scholars highlights the critical elements of building a diverse workforce such as public–private partnerships in bringing field-based experience to undergraduate students; facilitating scholars’ career decision making in the early phase; and helping students connect their passions with their talents and skillsets.

Kai H. Young, MPH and Roland J. Thorpe, Jr., PhD, co-guest editors of the PHP supplement conclude,

“The COVID-19 global pandemic exposed decades, if not centuries, of health disparities and health inequities in communities that have been deprived of the resources and services needed to protect and promote health. The global experience of this pandemic has reignited the urgency to prioritize overcoming health inequalities and has sparked a renewed national call to action… Investing in a diverse and well-trained workforce is one solution.”

The PHP CUPS supplement is open access and is available on the PHP journal website.

Register to learn more about the CUPS program in a live SOPHE webinar on December 7, 2021.


The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1950 to support leaders in health education and promotion to advance healthy and equitable communities across the globe. SOPHE represents a diverse membership of 4,000 professionals and students who work and learn in various public and private organizations and universities to advance health education theory and research, develop disease prevention and health promotion programs, and promote public policies conducive to health. For more information visit