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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 College 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.

Program Type


Program Format

On Campus

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Alumni Spotlight:
Kathy Staats

What inspired you to pursue an MPH in Public Health Policy?

“I began my career in tobacco prevention and control. This was at a pivotal time when we were seeing the results of policies that were making lasting changes for the public’s health. Even as a young advocate, I saw how my voice could help create a better future.

I chose to pursue my MPH at UWM because I saw their staff and faculty at work in the community. I wanted my education to echo the community organizing and grassroots skills I was learning in my working world.”

Zilber College of Public Health alum Kathy Staats
Kathy Staats, MPH – Public Health Policy

Why our public health policy master’s program is distinct

The Public Health Policy (PHP) 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 track gain foundational understanding of social and policy theories, and their relevance to public health practice and policymaking in various contexts.

The PHP 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 Competencies

  1. Integrate ethical principles into public health policy, practice, and research by ensuring respect for diverse values, beliefs, and cultures and the dignity of individuals and communities.
  2. Conduct policy analysis in public health policy, identifying and assessing policy options, outcomes, and potential contributions to population health and health disparities.
  3. Apply policy theory to identify the actors, structures and forces that influence and shape the public health policy process.
  4. Analyze quantitative data to assess the relationship between policy, policy malleable factors, and public health relevant outcomes.
  5. Collect and analyze qualitative data to inform public health policy recommendations.

MPH Public Health Policy (48 credits)

All students enrolled in the MPH program take a common set of core classes designed to give basic skills and knowledge of public health concepts. The core curriculum consists of at least 24-25 credit hours, including four credits for the Field Experience (3 credits) and Leadership in Public Health (1 credit) courses and a two-credit capstone seminar. In addition to the common core, students complete the required coursework in one of six specialization tracks (total program credits in parentheses): Biostatistics (46 credits), Community and Behavioral Health Promotion (48-49 credits), Environmental Health Sciences (45 credits), Epidemiology (49 credits), Public Health Policy (48 credits) or Nutrition and Dietetics (64 credits). 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 Biostatistics3
PH 703: Environmental Health Sciences3
PH 704: Principles and Methods of Epidemiology3
PH 705: Principles of Public Health Policy and Administration3
PH 706: Perspectives on Community and Behavioral Health3
PH 708: Health Systems and Population Health3
PH 790: Field Experience in Public Health3
PH 791: Leadership in Public Health1
PH 800: Capstone in Public Health 2

Public Health Policy Master’s Concentration Required Courses (12 credits)

PH 776: Qualitative Approaches in Public Health Policy3
PH 777: Quantitative Research Methods for Public Health Policy3
PH 779: Public Health Policymaking and Policy Analysis3
PH 785: Principles of Public Health Economics3

Content Elective — choose at least one (three credits)

PH 700: Structures of Inequality and Population Health3
PH 719: Social Justice in Public Health3
PH 730: Overview of Children with Special Health Care Needs3
PH 752: Public Health and Mental Health3
PH 769: Critical Perspectives on Nutritional Epidemiology and the Food System 3
PH 784: Social and Economic Policy as Health Policy3
PH 820: Maternal and Child Health Foundations, Policy and Practice3
PH 859: Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities in the United States3
ED POL 630G: Race and Public Policy in Urban America3

Other classes as approved by advisor.

Methods and Practice Electives — Choose at least three (nine credits)

PH 726: Community Assessment3
PH 727: Program Planning and Implementation in Public Health3
PH 728: Program Evaluation in Public Health3
PH 729: Survey Research Methods in Public Health3
PH 763: Epidemiology for Equity3
ED POL 601: Foundations of Community-Based Organizations 3
ED POL 602: Proposal Writing and Fundraising Skills for Community-Based Organizations3
NONPROF 791: Nonprofit Advocacy and Public Policy 3
PUB ADM 630: Budgeting and Finance in the Public Sector3
PUB ADM 763: Scope and Dynamics of Public Administration3
URBPLAN 791: Introduction to Urban Geographic Information Systems for Planning3
BUS ADM 755: Health Care Administration and Delivery Systems3
BUS ADM 766: Marketing for Non-profit Organizations3

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.

Public Health Policy Jobs

Public health policy master’s 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

Phoenix Do
  • Professor, Public Health Policy/Epidemiology
Xiaobei Dong
  • Assistant Professor, Public Health Policy
Linnea Laestadius
  • Associate Professor, Public Health Policy

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

Xiaobei (Shel-bay) Dong, PhD: Health disparities and how health policies affect health care access and service utilization for disadvantaged populations, such as people with disabilities, racial/ethnic minorities, and older adults with chronic conditions.

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