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The School of Public Health and Health Systems builds upon a 35-year history of success as the former Department of Health Studies and Gerontology.

The original department was formed in response to the 1974 Lalonde Report on Health Promotion and began offering undergraduate degrees in 1978 and graduate degrees in 1979.

It was the first trans-disciplinary department in Canada dedicated to health promotion and disease prevention, and the first in the country to offer a master's and doctoral degree in gerontology. An innovative online Master of Public Health program was added in 2006 featuring practicum and capstone components.

In 2011, the Department developed a bold strategic plan to create the new School. The Department officially transformed into School of Public Health and Health Systems on September 1, 2011. Together with the Departments of Kinesiology, and the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, the School is one of three academic units within the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.