Core Curriculum


The Core curriculum, taken by all incoming students in their first semester, consists of six broad areas of study known as “studios.” These studios, which are broken down into 16 modules, build on each other to provide a broad, interlocking foundation of knowledge essential for a career in public health.

Your cohort will move together through the Core during your first semester, and faculty will help you make connections across the studios by exploring questions like: What factors underlie the patterns of disease and premature death in the United States and around the world? What role do environmental factors play? What accounts for health disparities within nations and around the world? And what values come into play in designing interventions to prevent illness and systems to promote health?

The six studios that comprise the Core:

  1. Foundations of Public Health examines public health history, ethics, and health and human rights and serves as a stepping stone for understanding patterns of health disparities and domestic and international policy.
    Modules: Ethics of Public Health, History of Public Health, Human Rights.
  2. Research Methods and Applications provides an introduction to scientific inquiry and evidence, their relationships to public policy, and an integrated approach to the disciplines of biostatistics and epidemiology. Students gain an introduction to measurement, inference and the language and tools of science, views on the differences between scientific and other types of inquiry and knowledge, classical models of how science and evidence can inform policy, and sources of tension at the science-policy interface.
    Modules: Qualitative Foundations, Quantitative Foundations.
  3. Determinants of Health examines the fundamental biological concepts and environmental factors that impact health status.
    Modules: Biological Basis of Public Health, Environmental Determinants of Human Health, Social Determinants of Health.
  4. Public Health Interventions introduces students to the key drivers of population health that arise from features of the social environment. The SBSA multi-disciplinary approach is situated at the intersection of the social and behavioral sciences, and exposes students to major theories of both disease etiology and intervention. The studio focuses on multiple crosscutting themes, and introduces frameworks to address the complexity inherent in complex public health problems.
    Modules: Applying Theory to Interventions, Program Planning and Evaluation, Systems Thinking.
  5. Global and Developmental Perspectives consolidates and extends students’ analysis of the field of public health through the exploration of global and developmental perspectives on challenges and strategies to address them.
    Modules: Globalization and Global HealthLife Course.
  6. Health Systems delves into the workings of the United States healthcare system, comparing and contrasting it to those of other nations. This studio includes modules on health economics and healthcare systems throughout the world.
    Modules: Comparative Healthcare Systems, Health Economics, United States Public Health and Healthcare Systems.

Foundational MPH Competencies

The Mailman School's Core Curriculum, in combination with the Integration of Science & Practice course, Leadership course, and Interprofessional Practice opportunities, meet the MPH foundational competencies established by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

Upon completion, you are able to:

Evidence-based Approaches to Public Health

  • Apply epidemiological methods to the breadth of settings and situations in public health practice
  • Select quantitative and qualitative data collection methods appropriate for a given public health context
  • Analyze quantitative and qualitative data using biostatistics, informatics, computer-based programming , and software, as appropriate
  • Interpret results of data analysis for public health research, policy, or practice

Public Health & Health Care Systems 

  • Compare the organization, structure and function of health care, public health and regulatory systems across national and international settings  
  • Discuss the means by which structural bias, social inequities and racism undermine health and create challenges to achieving health equity at organizational, community and societal levels 

Planning & Management to Promote Health  

  • Assess population needs, assets and capacities that affect communities’ health  
  • Apply awareness of cultural values and practices to the design or implementation of public health policies or programs 
  • Design a population-based policy, program, project or intervention  
  • Explain basic principles and tools of budget and resource management  
  • Select methods to evaluate public health programs  

Policy in Public Health 

  • Discuss multiple dimensions of the policy-making process, including the roles of ethics and evidence  
  • Propose strategies to identify stakeholders and build coalitions and partnerships for influencing public health outcomes  
  • Advocate for political, social or economic policies and programs that will improve health in diverse populations  
  • Evaluate policies for their impact on public health and health equity  


  • Apply principles of leadership, governance and management, which include creating a vision, empowering others, fostering collaboration and guiding decision making  
  • Apply negotiation and mediation skills to address organizational or community challenges  


  • Select communication strategies for different audiences and sectors   
  • Communicate audience-appropriate public health content, both in writing and through oral presentation  
  • Describe the importance of cultural competence in communicating public health content  

Interprofessional Practice 

  • Perform effectively on interprofessional teams  

Systems Thinking 

  • Apply systems thinking tools to a public health issue

Work Commitments

During the first semester of the Columbia MPH and the Accelerated MPH, while engaging in the integrated core, students are strongly advised against extra-curricular work commitments. In second, third, and fourth semesters of the program, schedules are more flexible and students may engage in some part-time work.