The School was begun in 1948 with the organization of the School of Tropical and Preventive Medicine, the purpose of which was to provide a base for research and teaching. After its reorganization in 1961, the Division of Public Health and Tropical Medicine began to offer master's degree programs through the Graduate School. Establishment of the School of Public Health was authorized in 1964, and plans were made for faculty and facilities to meet the requirements of the Committee on Professional Education of the American Public Health Association.
In 1967, when the School of Public Health officially opened, the School of Nutrition and Dietetics (which had been organized in 1922 as the School of Dietetics) became a department of the School of Public Health. The name of the School was changed to School of Health in October 1970. Because the meaning of the term "public health" has gradually broadened to emphasize lifestyle-consistent with the goals of the School-the original name, School of Public Health, was readopted in August 1987.
The Center for Health Promotion, the Department of Preventive Medicine, and the Preventive Medicine Practice Group were merged into the School of Public Health in 1990. This resulted in expanded faculty and resources. The School of Public Health also serves as the Department of Preventive Medicine in the School of Medicine.