Global Health and Health Policy

The incidence and meaning of disease and injury, the quality and cost of health care services to prevent and treat those diseases and injuries, the variable access of citizens to those services, the role of government and politics in the provision and regulation of health care–these fundamental issues and many more are central concerns of health policy in the United States and abroad. Indeed, health care affects the life of every individual, whether through the financing of health insurance, both public and private, the treatment of illness, the care of the frail elderly, the dissemination of information about the health risks of smoking and benefits of exercise and other behaviors that affect health, or the adoption of regulations to reduce human exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment. 

A secondary field in Global Health and Health Policy (GHHP) could explore any of these topics within the United States or across the world, moving into such themes as: accountability and governance – the role of the state versus transnational organizations and corporations in global health; the relevance and morality of global socioeconomic inequality in health; the risk of pandemic diseases and their economic and psychological impact on populations; the consequences of political change in a country's health; and the challenges resulting from complex emergencies and vulnerable populations in fragile states. 

The natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities all contribute to the study of global health and health policy. Harvard offers many different perspectives and programs concerning health. Students may explore all aspects of health care, health policy, and health science through many perspectives, approaches and subject matters in the health domains that attract students with potentially quite different interests and that provide them with complementary forms of knowledge. Upon completion of the secondary field, GHHP students will know how to actively engage with complex themes from a variety of perspectives, conduct health-related research, and critically think about a spectrum of health issues, both domestic and global. 

REQUIREMENTS: 5 courses (20 credits) 

  1. One foundational course, chosen from the following options: 
    1. GENED 1063: World Health: Challenges and Opportunities 
    2. GENED 1079: Why Is There No Cure for Health Care? 
    3. GENED 1093: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Cares: Reimagining Global Health 
    4. United States in the World 11: American Health Care Policy (not currently offered
  2. Three additional courses, one course in three of the following eight categories: 
    1. Health Policy 
      1. Economics of Health 
      2. Ethics of Health 
      3. Health and Demography 
      4. Health, Culture, and Society 
      5. History and Practice of Medicine 
      6. Politics of Health 
    2. Science of Disease 
      1. Engineering Sciences and Statistics 
      2. Science of Disease 
    3. Note: A list of courses in each category is available at the GHHP web site. Note that the eight categories are divided into two areas, Health Policy and Science of Disease. Students are encouraged to take at least one course from both thematic areas. 
  3. One course to fulfill the research component of the secondary field in global health and health policy. The research component must be on an approved topic. For information on the approval process and deadlines, please consult the GHHP web site. The research requirement may be fulfilled in one of four ways: 
    1. Writing a senior thesis pertaining to global health or health policy in one's concentration. One term of the senior thesis tutorial will double count for the concentration and secondary field. 
    2. Adding a thesis chapter on the global health or health policy implications of a hard science, engineering, or computer science thesis. One term of the senior thesis tutorial will double count for the concentration and secondary field. 
    3. Writing a research paper related to global health or health policy in GHHP 99: Research in Global Health and Health Policy. 
    4. Writing a research paper related to global health or health policy while enrolled in a supervised reading and research course (GHHP 91, or a 91r or 901r course in another department; prior approval is required). 


No more than one of the five courses may be non-letter-graded. (Exception: Two courses may be taken non-letter graded if one is the required research component.) 

Due to FAS regulations, only one course may double count for a secondary field and concentration. 


We encourage students to notify the program as soon as they have decided to pursue the Secondary Field in Global Health and Health Policy, so that we may keep them informed of important deadlines and policies, events, and research, internship and employment opportunities. 

For additional information and advice about the program and course selection, students may contact: