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What Is Public Health Planning?

Public health professionals play a vital role in fostering community health and wellness. According to the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health definition, public health “protects and improves the health of individuals, families, communities, and populations, locally and globally.” Public health plans can expand healthy habits, prevent and fight disease, improve safety and manage chronic conditions like diabetes and mental illness.

A master’s degree program in public health (MPH) can provide planning and leadership tools and skills to improve the collective health of a community, whether it is one neighborhood at a time or an international arena.

What Is Public Health Planning?

The Community Guide from defines public health planning as “a multi-step process that generally begins with the definition of the problem and development of an evaluation plan.”

Each stage requires evidence-based resources and informed action. Public health professionals may be involved in any or all steps of the process: assessing the community to determine objectives; developing and implementing plans; and monitoring the results to evaluate performance.

What Are the 5 Stages of Public Health Planning?

An easy framework for public health planning is the MAP-IT acronym by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion that helps plan initiatives for Healthy People 2030. The MAP-IT framework stands for mobilize, assess, plan, implement and track.

  1. Assemble numerous community stakeholders and build relationships or partnerships to facilitate change. Bring representatives together to identify the community’s primary health issues and underlying social determinants.
  2. Prioritize and select which issues to address within the skills, resources, timeframe or other constraints. Often a community may have too many health issues for a single project. Identify and collect baseline data before implementing any changes so you can measure improvement.
  3. A good plan includes measurable, feasible and timely outcome objectives and a clear definition of success. Determine the community’s short-term, intermediate and long-term objectives and steps to meet the goals. The plan must also include a budget, timeline, potential barriers, resources and other items necessary for success. A strong marketing message can make or break a project.
  4. Action items should clearly list responsible parties and deadlines. Unexpected roadblocks, an ever-changing public health landscape and healthcare emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, may cause the plan to be delayed or even derailed.
  5. Develop indicators to track the process and monitor the plan’s implementation so that you can make improvements or adjustments as necessary. Share these results with the project team and community partners. Changing plans or adapting is not a failure but a chance to refine the plan or meet a new or even higher priority issue.

Part of the evaluation plan is to explore lessons learned as a final step in a health quality initiative. Review the process, results, group performance and even individual activity. Look for areas that worked well to use again or strategies to revise for future projects.

Why Choose a Master’s in Public Health?

Healthcare is dynamic and evolving as priorities, needs and resources can change quickly. The process of assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating a public health plan can be intimidating and overwhelming.

MPH program graduates emerge prepared to develop, adapt and modify their plans to meet the needs of their community. Lamar University’s Master of Public Health online degree program helps students learn best practices for developing a public health plan from beginning to end for real-world application. The MPH program is entirely online and asynchronous, allowing working professionals to complete the coursework on their schedule.

The Health Program Planning and Evaluation in Diverse Communities course in Lamar University’s online MPH program addresses population diversity and the need for cultural competence. The Current Issues in Health Promotion course explores public health trends so that you can provide your community with the best resources possible. The program will prepare you to plan for public health, impact health policy and track population wellness.

Learn more about Lamar University’s Master of Public Health online program.


Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health

Good & Healthy: Writing A Community Health Action Plan Applying Law and Policy Solutions to Public Health Challenges in the Coming Decade

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Program Planning Resource


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