Public Health Research Methods

Advancing the evidence base on ways to promote health equity requires a solid foundation of research methods skills. Finding answers to complex questions on how to improve public health requires carefully designed research and evaluation studies with results that can be used to shape policy, programs, and interventions. Employers in government, academia, nongovernmental organizations, and private industry across the globe seek candidates with strong skills in data collection, analysis, and interpretation; research and evaluation design; and working in diverse, complex contexts. 

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 practice, programs, and policy. This rigorous certificate provides students with a well-rounded foundation of skills gleaned from coursework and co-curricular programming that emphasizes career development and application of methods in practice.  

Admissions Eligibility

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

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

The Competencies for this Certificate are as follows:

  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

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 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. 

Quantitative Data Analysis

In this course students will learn to develop and implement a quantitative data analysis plan and to interpret the results of quantitative analyses using datasets from actual evaluation studies. The early phase of the course will focus on necessary but essential pre-analysis tasks often overlooked in the research training process. These include: identifying and resolving dirty data including logical inconsistencies, and conducting simple and complex data transformations. The second half of the course focuses on conducting bivariate and multivariable statistical tests. This is an applied course, emphasizing skill building through hands-on work using statistical analysis software in each class session.  

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. The accuracy of the information provided by epidemiologic studies is therefore of central concern. Epidemiologic methods are the tools we use to make valid causal arguments. This course builds upon the methods introduced in P6400 Principles of Epidemiology or the Quant core module. The primary objective is to provide students with the basic tools necessary to design, carry out, and interpret the results from observational epidemiologic studies. 

Qualitative Data Analysis 

The collection of qualitative data is widespread and growing in public health research. However, the credibility and quality of qualitative research rests upon utilizing  systemic rigor in collecting, recording, organizing, categorizing, and interpreting qualitative findings. Focusing in particular on focus group data, this course introduces a variety of approaches to qualitative data analysis, with a focus on applying thematic or framework analysis, and facilitates their application and manuscript development through hands-on group work and work outside of class. 

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