Health Policy

Interested in health care quality? The HIV pandemic? Health disparities among minorities? The FDA and drug safety?

Students in the secondary field in Health Policy, a program sponsored by the Interfaculty Initiative in Health Policy, study:

  1. Factors shaping health and health care, including incidence and causes of disease; value of medical treatments and other technological innovations that promote health; inequalities in access and treatment; quality of health care and medical errors; and financing of health care.

  2. Policies that address health in modern society, including provision and regulation of health insurance by nations, control and taxation of tobacco and other drugs by state and federal governments, and regulation of technology (pharmaceuticals and medical innovation).

Students gain deeper familiarity with analytic and empirical techniques developed in a variety of fields: anthropology, economics, ethics, government, history (including history of science), psychology, and sociology. The mix of vital and fascinating subject material with theory and methods makes health policy a combination of the theoretical and the applied. Students also gain a sense of community through regular program dinners with guest speakers, and other public events.

Requirements: 5 half-courses

  1. One introductory half-course in health policy:

  2. Extra-Departmental Courses 186: Introduction to Health Care Policy (formerly General Education 186)

    Note: As of 2010-11, this course will be replaced with a new course in the General Education curriculum: United States in the World 11: American Health Care Policy.

  3. Three additional courses that have health policy content, chosen from a list of offerings posted on the health policy website. The courses must be chosen from three separate disciplines, and at least one half-course must be an upper-level course (i.e., not a Core course, General Education course, Freshman Seminar, or House Seminar)

  4. One half-course to fulfill the research component of the secondary field in health policy. The research component must be on an approved topic. For information on the approval process and deadlines, please consult the research requirement page on the health policy website. The research requirement may be fulfilled in one of four ways:

    1. Writing a senior thesis pertaining to health policy in one's concentration (one term of the senior thesis tutorial in the concentration—a 99 course or equivalent).

    2. Adding a thesis chapter on the health policy implications of a science thesis (one term of the senior thesis tutorial in the concentration—a 99 course or equivalent).

    3. Writing a research paper related to health policy in Government 1597: Advanced Topics in Health Policy

    4. Writing a research paper related to health policy while enrolled in a supervised reading and research course (a 91r or 910r course) in a relevant department

Other Information

No more than one of the five half-courses may be non-letter-graded. (Exception: Students may count both a relevant Freshman Seminar and a senior thesis tutorial that is graded SAT/UNS.)

According to the FAS secondary fields website: “Only one half-course may double count for a secondary field and concentration (or any other degree requirement, such as the Core, General Education, a foreign language citation, or the language requirement).  Courses count first for concentration, and then one may be double-counted for a secondary field.”

Note: For students who choose to fulfill the research requirement through the thesis or thesis chapter option, one term of the thesis tutorial (the 99 course or equivalent) will count for the secondary field, and this course will be the one “double counted” course. If the tutorial is graded SAT/UNS, this course will be the one “non-letter graded” course allowed in the secondary field. (Exception, as noted above: Students may count both a relevant Freshman Seminar and a senior thesis tutorial that is graded SAT/UNS.)

With permission of the program, the Health Policy courses in requirement 2 may include one relevant Freshman Seminar, as well as relevant courses from study abroad, Harvard Summer School, and other Harvard Faculties.

A course in statistics or research methods is recommended.

Cordeiro Health Policy Summer Research Grants are available for the summer before senior year, on a competitive basis, to students in the secondary field in Health Policy to gain a head start on their research in health policy.

Students who are currently in the Health Policy Certificate Program may choose to remain in the certificate program rather than switch to the secondary field in Health Policy. Those who wish to switch to the secondary field should notify the program by using the secondary fields web tool.

Advising Resources and Expectations

We encourage students to notify the program as soon as they have decided to pursue the secondary field in Health Policy, so that the program may keep them informed of important policies; events; and research, internship and employment opportunities. Freshmen and first-semester sophomores can inform the program of their intent to pursue the secondary field by using the online form on the Health Policy website. Students who have already declared a concentration should notify the program using the secondary fields web tool.

The following faculty and health policy administrators are available for advice about the program and course selection:

The administrative office of the Health Policy Program is located at 14 Story Street, 4th Floor. Please consult the health policy website for more information about the secondary field.