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Public health policy includes local, state and federal policies that directly or indirectly impact the level and distribution of health in the population. At the Zilber School of Public Health, we take a broad intersectoral view that includes a “Health in All Policies” approach.

Our public health policy master’s program framework recognizes that the level and distribution of health and well-being in the population are fundamentally shaped by public policies that create the social and economic conditions that underlie population health and health equity.

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Public Health Research in Action

Milwaukee County became the first governing board in the nation to pass a resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis in 2019. Since then, more than 90 cities and town councils and 40 local health departments have followed suit.

Now, a team of researchers, including faculty from the Zilber School of Public Health, is embarking on a study to determine whether declaring such a resolution actually leads to governmental action that enables change not only in health policies, but also in policies around other social inequities that have a direct impact on the health inequities.

Michael Gonzalez Jr, Young Cho, Linnea Laestadius and Lorraine Lathen.
Researchers Michael Gonzalez Jr., Young Cho, Linnea Laestadius and Lorraine Lathen.

Why our public health policy master’s program is distinct

The Public Health Policy & Administration (PHPA) track in the MPH program is nationally distinct in its intersectoral, systems-level and justice focused curriculum. Emphasizing the social, political and economic determinants of health, students in the public health policy and administration track gain foundational understanding of social and policy theories, and their relevance to public health practice and policymaking in various contexts.

The PHPA track also uniquely trains students in both quantitative, econometric policy analysis and qualitative research methods, with application to real-world public health policy problems. 

Public Health Policy MPH (46 credits)

All students enrolled in the MPH program take a common set of core classes. The core curriculum consists of at least 20 credit hours, including at least three credits of field experience and a two-credit capstone seminar. In addition to the common core, students must complete the below required coursework in one of five specialization tracks. Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better in order to progress through the program.

MPH Required Common Core Courses (at least 24 credits)

PH 702: Introduction to Biostatistics (3 credits)
PH 703: Environmental Health Sciences (3 credits)
PH 704: Principles and Methods of Epidemiology (3 credits)
PH 705: Public Health Policy and Administration (3 credits)
PH 706: Perspectives in Community and Behavioral Health (3 credits)
PH 708: Health Systems and Population Health (3 credits)
PH 790: Field Experience in Public Health (3 credits)
PH 791: Leadership in Public Health (1 credit)
PH 800: Capstone in Public Health (2 credits)

PHP Required Courses (18 credits)

PH 776: Qualitative Approaches in Public Health Policy and Administration (3 credits)
PH 779: Public Health Policymaking and Policy Analysis (3 credits)
PH 785: Principles of Public Health Economics (3 credits)
PH 781: Public Health Administration (3 credits)
PH 777: Quantitative Research Methods for Public Health Policy and
Administration (3 credits)
PH 759: Intro to Regression for Understanding Social Determinants of Health (3 credits)

Content Elective – choose at least one (three credits)

PH 700 Structures of Inequality and Population Health (3 credits)
PH 769: Critical Perspectives on Nutritional Epidemiology and the Food System (3 credits)
PH 774: Violence and Health
PH 784: Social and Economic Policy as Health Policy (3 credits)
PH 820: Maternal and Child Health Foundations, Policy and Practice (3 credits)
PH 859: Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities in the United States (3 credits)

Other classes as approved by advisor.

Methods and Practice Electives – Choose at least two (six credits)

PH 726: Community Assessment (3 credits)
PH 727: Program Planning and Implementation in Public Health (3 credits)
PH 728: Program Evaluation in Public Health (3 credits)
PH 729: Survey Research Methods in Public Health (3 credits)
PH 763: Epidemiology for Equity (3 credits)
ED POL 601: Foundations of Community-Based Organizations (3 credits)
ED POL 602: Proposal Writing and Fundraising Skills for Community-Based Organizations (3 credits)
ED POL 711: Community Change and Engagement Strategies: (3 credits)
NONPROF 791: Nonprofit Advocacy and Public Policy (3 credits)
PUB ADM 630: Budgeting and Finance in the Public Sector (3 credits)
URBPLAN 791: Intro to Urban GIS for Planning (3 credits)
BUS ADM 766: Marketing for Non-profit Organizations (3 credits)

Other classes as approved by advisor.

Please note: All courses are subject to change. Please consult the Academic Catalog for the most up-to-date information.

PHP competencies

  1. Distinguish public health policy and administration from health care policy and administration, and articulate the importance of health in all policies.
  2. Examine how public policy and established socioeconomic structures influence population health and health disparities.
  3. Develop strategies for leveraging policy to promote population health, health equity, and social and environmental justice.
  4. Integrate ethical principles into public health policy, practice, research and administration by ensuring respect for diverse values, beliefs and cultures, and the dignity of individual and communities.
  5. Demonstrate effective oral and written communication skills to present, explain and advocate for public health policies and programs.
  6. Describe the policymaking process and identify the actors, structures and forces that influence and shape the public health policy process.
  7. Conduct policy analysis in public health policy and administration, identifying and assessing policy options, outcomes, and potential contributions to population health and health disparities.
  8. Apply appropriate methods to gather and analyze a robust basis of evidence to inform and evaluate public health policy, practice and administration.
  9. Assess and translate available evidence into public health policy and administrative planning, development and implementation to promote population health and health equity.
  10. Describe the organizational structures and administration of public health and health care systems.
  11. Describe best-practice leadership and management principles as they relate to public health practice

Public Health Policy Jobs

Master’s in public health policy graduates work for state and local health departments, nonprofits, policy think tanks, advocacy organizations or with elected officials to analyze, develop and implement health-related policies at the city, state or national level.

Job Placements for Recent Public Health Policy Graduates Include:

  • Wisconsin Population Health Fellowship (Wood County Health Department)
  • National Cancer Institute Health Communications
  • Community Advocates Public Policy Institute
  • University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute
  • Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Health research consulting firms
  • Other nonprofit organizations

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Research expertise of Public Health Policy (PHP) faculty

D. Phuong (Phoenix) Do, PhD: Socioeconomic health policies; racial/ethnic segregation and neighborhood effects; racial/ethnic health disparities; quantitative methodologies

Linnea Laestadius, PhD, MPP: Public health and technology; social media communication; commercial determinants of health; tobacco regulatory science; qualitative methods