The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health was founded in 1948 with a $13.6 million grant from the A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust. The school opened its doors in 1950 as the 13th public health school in the nation.
At first, the school focused on occupational and industrial health and hygiene, mostly to address the public health needs of the industrialized City of Pittsburgh. At that time, Pittsburgh was the world’s largest producer of steel. So prominent was Pitt Public Health’s research that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration used only Pitt Public Health data to create the first national standards for worker safety and health on the job.
As Pittsburgh’s economy changed from heavy industry to service and high-tech industries, with a population shift from blue-collar to white-collar and elderly, Pitt Public Health’s focus also changed. Since about 1986, the school has broadened its efforts to include chronic disease and geriatrics. Pitt Public Health now also focuses its research on global health, health equity, and premature mortality.
Research also continues in such traditional Pitt Public Health study areas as infectious disease, workplace and environment problems, strokes and heart disease, and radiation safety.
Pitt Public Health research grants have increased dramatically since the school’s founding. From 1948 to 1952, they amounted to roughly $800,000. By 1958, they rose to nearly $2 million. In 1987, they grew to $13 million, and since have risen to more than $55 million annually in recent years—amounting to more than $2.5 billion in research revenues since the school’s founding.
Pitt consistently ranks among the top five schools in the nation for funding from the National Institutes of Health, with Pitt Public Health alone receiving nearly $50 million in NIH funding last year.
Among Pitt Public Heath’s greatest contributions are its more than 7,000 alumni, who are leaders in improving public health across the nation and the world.