Health Promotion Research and Practice

Well-designed health promotion programs are essential to the health of individuals and communities. Informed at the intersection of core public health knowledge, the individual trained in this area is uniquely positioned to be an agent for change in communities locally and globally.

In order for health promotion and disease prevention programs and interventions to be effective, they should be based on a body of relevant theory and research. Unfortunately, many programs are primarily informed by precedent, tradition, or intuition, leading to limited success.

The purpose of this Certificate is to enable students to rigorously design, implement, and evaluate health promotion and disease prevention programs and interventions which work on the individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and policy levels, and are guided by theory and grounded in available evidence.

Graduates may take jobs in federal, state, and local health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health; academic settings and research organizations; advocacy groups; voluntary health organizations; and community-based health promotion settings in the United States and other countries.

Admissions Eligibility

Health Promotion Research and Practice is open to Columbia MPH students in:

*Please note: Other departmental students who are able to complete the required sequenced courses during their first spring and second fall semesters, will be considered for enrollment. However, students must have permission from their home department.

The Competencies for this Certificate are as follows:

  1. Diagram a logic model (logic of risk) that illustrates the ‘causal’ pathway for how different factors influence increased risk for a health problem that have an impact on quality of life for a specified population. 
  2. Conduct a preliminary community assets assessment and describe key findings and next steps. 
  3. Use constructs and concepts from major public health theories to explain and change behavioral, social, and environmental factors that contribute to specific individual and community health problems.
  4. Design theory- or evidence-based multi-level health promotion interventions.
  5. Integrate health literacy, media literacy, and cultural competence concepts to the development and evaluation of interventions to advance health equity. 

Learn More

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

Sample Courses

Designing Public Health Interventions

(Required Course) The first step in designing successful public health programs is to understand the needs that motivate these programs and the assets that can be brought to bear on developing them. The purpose of this course is to enable students to perform select steps in a community needs and assets assessment and to plan how to facilitate participation by those who will be affected by a resulting program. The assessment process encompasses two main components: an epidemiologic, behavioral, and social analysis of a community and population at-risk for a health-related problem; and, an effort to understand the character of the community, its members, and its strengths. At the start of the course we will discuss pre-assessment work which includes planning to put together a work group for program development. We will touch on essential elements of encouraging participation, work-group management, and culturally sensitive practice. Students will then move on throughout the rest of the course to create a logic model of a preselected health problem using Step 1 of Intervention Mapping which employs an adapted version of the classic PRECEDE part of the PRECEDE-PROCEED model (Green & Kreuter, 2005). Using this model, students will fully define their population and context for their assessments, posing questions, and choosing methods and data sources for completing each part of their logic model. At the same time, they will utilize various approaches and data sources for assessing their community’s strengths/assets. Finally, students will present their needs and assets assessments including setting priorities and program goals for key health and quality of life outcomes.

Evaluation of Health Programs

(Required Course) Program evaluation is an essential competence in public health. Across all areas of public health, stakeholders pose questions about effectiveness and impact of programs and interventions. This course will examine principles, methods and practices of evaluating health programs. A range of evaluation research designs and methods will be introduced and strategies to address challenges in real world program settings will be emphasized. The course will incorporate examples of evaluations of actual health programs and opportunities to learn through professional program evaluation experiences of the instructor. The combination of lectures, textbook readings, examples, discussions, in-class exercises, and an extensive applied group assignment to design an evaluation for a real program will help students gain evaluation skills and an appreciation for the art and science of program evaluation. The goal is for students to learn competencies required of an entry-level program evaluator, including design and implementation of evaluation studies and interpretation and communication of evaluation findings.

Advancing Health Literacy

(Required Course) Health Literacy is defined in Health People 2010 as "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services for appropriate health decisions." In this course we will explore the multi-layered interactions between health and literacy. We will begin by examining the issues related to literacy in the US and transition to the concept of health literacy. We will discuss issues related to reading comprehension, and usability of health related materials. The class will evaluate the major health literacy assessment instruments, learning how to administer these for different populations. We will focus on the role of language and culture as confounders to health literacy. Time will be spent assessing and then developing appropriate health materials for print, visual, auditory and internet venues. The course will shift towards examination of different health situations utilizing a health literacy approach including the research participants and informed consent, health literacy and medication/adherence, patient-physician communication models, and risk comprehension. Finally we will examine special topics including emergency preparedness. The classes are designed to include a mixture of didactic lectures, analysis of reading materials, group discussion, and exercises.

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