Health Policy and Practice

The successful implementation of public health programs requires the ability to understand and address complex policy questions. This is true for public health practitioners working on issues of climate change, or on initiatives to curb obesity or tobacco usage, or on programs that ensure access to reproductive health. In each case, the practitioner needs to understand the policy and politics of health systems, as well as the central economic and organizational variables at work.

The Certificate in Health Policy and Practice will prepare MPH students for this key role. The program provides a valuable framework for students from different disciplines to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to integrate issues of quality, access, and cost of healthcare with the associated political, social, and economic factors.

Drawing on the strength of the School’s faculty, students will learn from professors with first-hand experience in policy strategy and formulation. Graduates will be able to apply these skills both in the United States and abroad, and in a variety of public health arenas, including population and family health, environmental health, and epidemiology.

Admissions Eligibility

Health Policy and Practice is open to Columbia MPH students in:

Students who are interested in applying to this certificate will submit a statement of interest describing how this certificate matches their professional and academic goals.

The Competencies for this Certificate are as follows:

  1. Analyze the history and structure of the United States healthcare system and specify how social, political, legal, technological, economic forces have shaped it.
  2. Assess key policies and components of the US healthcare system, including public and private insurance coverage and regulation, quality monitoring, payment methods, and financing of healthcare.
  3. Apply economic theories to the analysis of the healthcare system and healthcare policies.
  4. Design policy solutions based on sound analysis of stakeholder views, political institutional features, technical feasibility and value acceptability.
  5. Evaluate innovative policy solutions to emerging healthcare system challenges

Learn More

Visit the Certificates Database to learn more about core and credit requirements.

Sample Courses

Public Health Law

This course is intended to introduce students to (i) certain basic principles of the legal system in the United States and (ii) major elements of the legal framework of health care administration. Students will be exposed to legal terms and approaches, and analyze federal and state statutes and regulations, as well as case law relevant to health care administrators, providers and consumers. We will review the development of certain laws shaping health care delivery and concurrently how public policy shapes the law. Students will have the opportunity to examine the legal issues that will affect health care providers, consumers and regulators.

At the end of the course, the student should understand the legal principles governing health care administration and have the basic ability to recognize common legal problems and approaches to their management. In addition, the student should have a basic substantive understanding of the major elements of the most commonly encountered laws focused on health care administration. Finally, students should have a better understanding of the interrelationships among the major players in health care delivery, and how these interrelationships are implicated in ethics, law and public policy.

In this course we explore constitutional law through the lens of public health policy. We examine the relationships and tensions between individual and collective concerns. We evaluate public health issues from an American legal perspective to determine the constitutional soundness of the health promotion objective. We consider multi-disciplinary factors and how they interact with issues of federalism, morality, economics and the politics of science.

Health Policy and Political Analysis

Resolving seemingly intractable policy issues depends on harnessing an array of strategies used by political actors. These strategies may include reframing an issue or bringing new evidence to light that stimulates new coalitions, persuading legislators that supporting a controversial measure is actually beneficial for their political career, or getting the media excited about an important, but very dry, technical policy issue. Another strategy is to change the venue in which the policy debate takes placeperhaps for example, by filing a lawsuit in state or federal courts, or bringing legislation before city government or state legislatures. As this course shows, the venue in which policy debates take place will structure the kinds of debates that are likely to occur.

The aim of this course is to give you a new understanding and appreciation of the multiple ways in which we can change the policies of health care by understandingand changingthe politics of health care. To effectively learn how to use these strategies we first need to develop a deeper understanding of the actors in the process and the best venues for policy change. Second, students will employ these theories using actual examples of issues and situations where political strategies and venue characteristics have had a fundamental impact on health policy. Cases are drawn from a wide range of public health issues, including tobacco regulation, public expansions of children's health insurance, Medicare, auto-safety, and bone marrow transplants.

Health Policy and the Political System

Why does the government play such a central role in the health of its citizens? What factors unique to American politics have given us the healthcare system we currently have, and how much change can be accomplished within our philosophical and ethical confines? How do political changes yield policy shifts—or not? This course analyzes the role of major institutions—the central government, the federal system, the private sector, interest groups, and so on—in formulating and implementing health policy in the United States. We will discuss underlying normative issues and crossnational perspectives on healthcare to situate American healthcare policy along a broader global political spectrum, and attempt to forecast what changes are likely—or unlikely—to occur. Topics will include political history, policy formation and recommendations, market forces and economic influences, and more.

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