Foundations for Public Health Course Launch

headshot of Sue Goldie teaching remotely

While the global pandemic has made the fall of 2020 seem ridden with uncertainty, it has also offered glimmers of hope and purpose. For the incoming students starting at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, seeking to join the ranks of epidemiologists, policy professionals, and public health experts, their education began with Foundations for Public Health, an online course taught by CHDS Faculty Director Sue J. Goldie.

The genesis for an orientation course began when then Dean Julio Frenk identified the need for a common public health foundation for all incoming graduate-level students and partnered with Goldie to conceptualize the core curriculum and develop the instructional materials over several months, ultimately teaching it together in 2015. Goldie further enhanced the course in subsequent years.

Created with an eye towards innovative online pedagogy, the course includes four modules: (1) fundamental principles of population health, (2) health conditions and epidemiological trends, (3) equity and social determinants of health, and (4) responses from the health and non-health sector. The course “unpacks” the critical knowledge areas for public health professionals—including the burden of disease and global governance—and explores how students could apply these core concepts to better understand the rapid changes in public health in the present moment. Characteristic of Dr. Goldie’s teaching style, the course’s inclusive virtual environment is supported with interactive “knowledge checks,” sketch-notes, conceptual diagrams, and resources curated from the GHELI digital repository and CHDS digital repository.

As a bookend to the course, Professor Goldie also welcomed students during Orientation Week. Here, students voiced an interest in connecting more deeply with their peers and faculty around a series of focused topics in public health. Motivated by this, and in line with the school’s efforts to create new, innovative ways to engage students during this off-campus semester, Professor Goldie guided the creation of “Neighborhoods and Learning Communities.” These five novel topic-centric portals, “Neighborhood. Decision Science and Public Health” being one, provided students with curated resources, faculty and expert-led events, and discussion boards designed to expand knowledge and foster community engagement.

Foundations for Public Health is supported by both CHDS and the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator (Harvard University).

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