Public Health Research Methods

Does an HIV prevention intervention increase condom use among teens? What factors impede parents' ability to effectively manage their children's asthma? How can increased levels of regular physical activity be promoted in low-income urban communities?

Finding answers to these complex questions requires carefully designed research studies with results that can be used to shape policy, programs, and treatments. To be effective, public health practices must be informed by well-executed research and data analyses. Employers in government, academia, nonprofit, and private industry in the United States and overseas seek candidates with strong research skills.

The Certificate in Public Health Research Methods (PHRM) provides students from various disciplines with the critical skills they need to design, conduct, and analyze data from health studies, particularly those that have direct implications for programs and policy. This rigorous program teaches students to formulate testable research hypotheses, utilize appropriate study designs, collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data, and interpret findings with an eye to their potential public health impact. 


  1. Generate and test public health research and evaluation hypotheses using quantitative and qualitative research methodologies.

  2. Select study designs and sampling and data collection strategies best suited to a given research or evaluation question, which are maximally rigorous, and feasible given the context and practical constraints of the setting.

  3. Critically evaluate the internal and external validity of quantitative and qualitative research methods and/or findings

  4. Execute qualitative and quantitative data analysis plans that will answer the research and evaluation question.

  5. Communicate accurately and effectively to a range of audiences about public health research

Admissions Eligibility

Public Health Research Methods is open to Columbia MPH students in:

Environmental Health Sciences
Population and Family Health
Sociomedical Sciences

A certificate in Public Health Research Methods is available to Biostatistics, Environmental Health SciencesEpidemiologyPopulation and Family Health, and Sociomedical Sciences students, for whom work experience is not requirement.

Given the required classes, the program is best suited to students enrolled in Epidemiology, Population and Family Health or Sociomedical Sciences.

Learn More

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

Sample Courses

Evaluation of Health Programs

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 examines the principles, methods, and practices of evaluating health programs. A range of evaluation research designs and methods are introduced, and strategies to address challenges in real-world program settings are emphasized. The course incorporates examples of evaluations of actual health programs and opportunities to learn through the professional program evaluation experiences of the instructor. Lectures, textbook readings, examples, discussions, in-class exercises, and an extensive applied group assignment to design an evaluation for a real program, help students gain an appreciation for the art and science of program evaluation. Students emerge with the skills necessary to serve as an entry-level program evaluator, including design and implementation of evaluation studies and interpretation and communication of evaluation findings.

Epidemiology II

As a basic science of public health, epidemiology is responsible for the identification of causes of disease that can guide the development of rational public health policies. As epidemiologic methods are the tools we use to make valid causal arguments, the accuracy of the information provided by epidemiologic studies is of central concern. This course builds upon the methods introduced in P6400, Principles of Epidemiology, to provide students with the basic tools necessary to design, carry out, and interpret the results from observational epidemiologic studies.

Qualitative Data Analysis

While the collection of qualitative data is widespread and growing in public health research, the credibility and quality of data analysis suffers from an absence of system and rigor in recording, organizing, categorizing and interpreting qualitative findings. Focusing in particular on interview data, this course introduces a variety of approaches to qualitative data analysis, and encourages their application through hands-on group work and homework assignments.

Related Certificates

Advanced Epidemiology
Applied Biostatistics
Comparative Effectiveness Outcomes Research
Health Promotion Research and Practice

Related Links

BEST Diversity Program
Columbia Summer Research Institute
Epidemiology and Population Health Summer Institute at Columbia University