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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 (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 five specialization tracks: Biostatistics (46 credits), Community and Behavioral Health Promotion (48-49 credits), Environmental Health Sciences (45 credits), Epidemiology (49 credits), or Public Health Policy (48 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 Biostatistics (3 credits)
PH 703: Environmental Health Sciences (3 credits)
PH 704: Principles and Methods of Epidemiology (3 credits)
PH 705: Principles of Public Health Policy and Administration (3 credits)
PH 706: Perspectives on Community and Behavioral Health (3 credits)
PH 708: Health Systems and Population Health (3 credits)
PH 733: Overview of Qualitative Methods for Public Health (1 credit)
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)

Public Health Policy Concentration Required Courses (12 credits)

PH 776: Qualitative Approaches in Public Health Policy (3 credits)
PH 777: Quantitative Research Methods for Public Health Policy (3 credits)
PH 779: Public Health Policymaking and Policy Analysis (3 credits)
PH 785: Principles of Public Health Economics (3 credits)

Content Elective – choose at least one (three credits)

PH 700: Structures of Inequality and Population Health (3 credits)
PH 719: Social Justice in Public Health (3 credits)
PH 730: Overview of Children with Special Health Care Needs (3 credits)
PH 752: Public Health and Mental Health (3 credits)
PH 769: Critical Perspectives on Nutritional Epidemiology and the Food System (3 credits)
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)
ED POL 630G: Race and Public Policy in Urban America (3 credits)

Other classes as approved by advisor.

Methods and Practice Electives – Choose at least three (nine 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)
NONPROF 791: Nonprofit Advocacy and Public Policy (3 credits)
PUB ADM 630: Budgeting and Finance in the Public Sector (3 credits)
PUB ADM 763: Scope and Dynamics of Public Administration (3 credits)
URBPLAN 791: Introduction to Urban Geographic Information Systems for Planning (3 credits)
BUS ADM 755: Health Care Administration and Delivery Systems (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.

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

Phoenix Do
  • Professor, Public Health Policy/Epidemiology
Xiaobei Dong
  • Assistant Professor, Public Health Policy
Linnea Laestadius
  • Associate Professor, Public Health Policy
Renee Scampini
  • Teaching Faculty II, School of Public Health

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