Modules

Ethics of Public Health

This module introduces students to the normative foundations of public health in the United States. To set the stage for the roles of public health law and ethics, students will learn about the emergence of bioethics as a normative challenge to the practice of medicine and the conduct of research. Students will then learn about the fundamental constitutional principles that shape the practice of public health law and to examine the relationship between those principles and the field of public health ethics.

The class examines the impact on public health ethics of classic figures and contemporary foundational authors. Starting with the utilitarian principle that it is the duty of public health to promote health, protect against infectious diseases and environmental threats, and provide access to needed medical care, the course will focus on principles of justice, autonomy, paternalism, and privacy, and the ways in which they serve to inform public health practice.

HUMAN RIGHTS

This global module helps students develop a practical idea of human rights-based approaches to public health and the ability to apply and analyze these approaches in the context of several public health challenges. Some provisions of formal legal instruments of human rights and humanitarian law will be discussed, as well as the less formal legal notions of participation, accountability, and equitable access to services that are crucial for rights-based work. Case examples of health-related human rights challenges will illustrate rights-based assessment and analysis, including both current challenges and historic moments in health and human rights.

History of Public Health

This course provides students with a narrative explaining the development of the field over the past two centuries and a conceptual framework for analyzing public health practice more broadly. Coursework will locate the origins of sustained public health practice in industrial-era Europe and the United States. In addition, the course will explore the ways in which the changing social, political, and economic structure reshaped patterns of disease and the ways in which reformers sought to explain and address those patterns, with a focus on race, class, and the environment. The rise of the state and debates about the use of governmental authority, as well as the tension between and science and action, represent another major theme. The course will trace the ways in which themes and ideas about the structural determinants of disease played out in different contexts spanning the 20th century, emphasizing domestic issues while drawing connections to the developing world.

Quantitative Foundations

This course provides an integrated approach to the disciplines of biostatistics and epidemiology, through the lens of systems thinking. Providing some of the tools necessary to help understand the complex and dynamic web of systems in public health, quantitative methods will present first year MPH students with a public health model of interventions and health and explore the interconnected elements—genetic, individual, family, neighborhood, community, environmental, governmental, and societal—and dynamic feedback mechanisms that affect each. As public health is not a simple, reactive, "take the pill three times a day" solution but a purposeful approach to preventing disease and promoting health, being able to document, measure, and understand these ripple effects is imperative.

QUALITATIVE FOUNDATIONS

This short module introduces students to the purposes, applications, strengths, and limitations of the qualitative methodological paradigm in public health research, including its use in conjunction with quantitative methods. After reviewing research questions suitable to this approach, various strategies and data collection methods for generating qualitative data are assessed, including guidelines for crafting of open-ended questions. In response to a research question, students identify key components of qualitative study design and create a structured topic guide for use in a hypothetical focus group study. Approaches to qualitative data analysis are also introduced.

Biological Basis of Public Health

To fully comprehend the field of public health, there are several underlying biological concepts that students need to recognize. This course gives students a basic knowledge of a few major concepts relevant to public health that provide the foundation for material covered in other core modules in the fall semester. Topics include genetics, bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections, chronic diseases, the nervous system, reproduction, and fetal development.

Environmental Determinants of Human Health

This lecture-based course exposes students to the basic principles of environmental health sciences. Topics include defining environmental toxicants, explaining how individuals are exposed, and extrapolating to the relevant health consequences of specific exposures. The course enables students to give examples of the major health issues that stem from various exposures, such as air pollution and lung disease, sun exposure and cancer, pesticide use and fetal development, and lead exposure and children's intelligence. The course gives students an appreciation for which populations are at risk, how studies are carried out in environmental health, and how study findings are used to inform environmental policy decisions.

SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH

What are the social, economic, and political dimensions of health? This course focuses on the ways in which health and illness are determined by broad social, economic, and political determinants. Students discuss the history of the study of social determinants and its core role in public health scholarship. Evidence related to how issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, mental illness, migration, and place are associated with health is a central theme.

In addition, this course familiarizes students with key ongoing discussions in literature related to the social determinants of health and  promising areas of new scholarship in the field, and includes discussion of ethical orientation to social inequalities in health and debates on intervention and social policy.

Applied Theory to Interventions

Understanding why people behave the way they do, what makes them change their behavior, and how these factors relate to health status and quality of life is critically important for public health professionals. This module provides an overview of dominant theories used to explain individual-level determinants of health-related behaviors through commonly used theories within public health practice, as well as new and emerging theories that have garnered attention within public health research.

The module provides students with a core foundation of health behavior theories used by public health researchers and practitioners, the historical contexts from which they emerged, and the ways in which they have been appraised within contemporary public health research, as well as an introduction promising emerging theories of health behavior.

PROGRAM PLANNING AND EVALUATION

Many health programs fail because of inadequate use of comprehensive and coordinated program planning, implementation, and evaluation. This course examines principles, methods, and practices in planning and evaluating public health programs. Students learn to differentiate among key planning and evaluation concepts and discuss the roles of stakeholders in the process.

The course provides an introduction to using logic models to identify key constructs and variables to be measured for evaluation; incorporating cause-and-effect theory and technical and experiential evidence into programming decisions; choosing appropriate types of evaluation to fit the research question; understanding the impact of evaluation design on internal and external validity; and identifying new approaches to evaluation that seek to maximize the translation of findings into public health practice.

SYSTEMS THINKING

Disease causation is multifactorial, nonlinear, and dynamic—yet evidence-based interventions to address public health problems are seldom grounded in complex, real-world settings. Addressing this complexity requires a level of public health thinking that acknowledges the nonlinear and dynamic nature of public health problems and interrogates the process of problem formulation, knowledge generation, analysis, integration, and dissemination.

This module introduces systems thinking as a means of evaluating the complex systems interactions causing disease, and a systems approach to identifying and implementing appropriate policy and interventions to address public health issues over time. Students examine the origins and current state of systems thinking as a discipline, discuss the rationale for adopting a systems approach, engage with systems thinking tools like systems dynamic models, and identify the challenges to adopting a systems approach in the current public health climate.

Life Course

In this course, students learn how life course approaches have emerged in public health, how health varies within and across the stages of the life course, and how an understanding of this variation improves public health policies and programs. Students learn how different perspectives (e.g., chronological, social, biological, developmental) lead us to characterize the life course and its stages in different ways. Both the immediate  and latent impact of specific lifecourse exposures will be examined, and differential mortality and morbidity across the lifespan will be emphasized.

Students will learn to differentiate between population age structure and longevity and how to compare them across countries. The importance of context in shaping health across the life course, as well as individual rights and responsibilities across the life course, will be emphasized throughout, as will the practical implications for public health policies and programs.

GLOBALIZATION AND Global HEALTH

Globalization and Global Health provides an overview of the field of global health and the key contributions of public health in relation to it. It is structured in three major units: Global Transformations and Global Health provides a broad historical overview of the shifting paradigms that  have shaped the development of tropical medicine, international health, and global health over time. The Global Burden of Disease and Key Global Health Priorities analyzes the frameworks and methods developed for comparative understanding of the global burden of disease, and assesses trends in relation to key global health risks. Global Health Governance analyzes the changing architecture of global health governance, provides an overview of key governmental actors, and explores the changing policy and legal context of the field of global health.

Health Economics

Governments play a large role in healthcare, and economics is a powerful tool to analyze such regulation. In this module, students consider health from an economic perspective, including unique insights into the determinants of health and the functioning of the healthcare system. Students learn about concepts like scarcity, opportunity cost, individual choice, decentralization, efficiency and equality, externalities, and public goods. The course prepares students to understand the varied components of healthcare costs, major economic theories of health insurance, models of investments in health, and issues of health behavior and choice.

United States Public Health and Healthcare Systems

This module gives students a basic understanding of the United States healthcare system through questions like: What are its historical roots? How is it organized? Who pays the healthcare bill? What role does government play (and how do different levels of government share these tasks)? What best explains the politics of health reform? How will the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, enacted in March 2010, impact the uninsured, the effort to contain healthcare costs, and the effort to improve the quality and efficiency of the American healthcare system? And how does the United States healthcare system compare with its industrialized counterparts around the world?

COMPARATIVE HEALTHcare systems

Rich, middle-income, and poor nations approach improvements in health and longevity in the same basic ways—yet healthcare delivery is radically different from country to country. This course delves into how different countries structure and finance their healthcare delivery systems—including all activities whose primary purpose is to improve health with a focus on the delivery of individual medical services. Using a handful of high-, middle-, and low-income countries as case studies, the course asks how different systems emphasize varied approaches to insuring their citizens against the costs of illness, providing basic and advanced health services to people in need, and ensuring quality and safety of healthcare. Students will also examine the role of political leadership and governance of healthcare systems across these countries.