Core Courses

The required core courses are: Obesity Epidemiology (ID537) taught primarily by Dr. Frank Hu; Nutritional Epidemiology (ID214) taught primarily by Dr. Walter Willett; and Advanced Topics in Obesity Epidemiology and Prevention (ID 541) taught by Drs. Hu and Gortmaker (new Spring 2011!). This latter course will cover more advanced study designs, prevention and policy research, and grant proposal development in obesity epidemiology and prevention research.

Because prerequisites for these core courses include basic epidemiology and biostatistics courses, the students who plan to take these courses should already have sufficient epidemiology/biostatistics background and skills. These core courses cover determinants and consequences of obesity, epidemiologic methods to conduct obesity research, dietary and physical activity assessment methods, dietary intervention studies, and prevention of obesity and related chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

These core courses will enable the students to have a good grasp of current evidence on the burden, causes, consequences, and prevention of obesity from an epidemiological perspective and common epidemiologic methods to conduct obesity research as well as skills for critical analysis of studies in obesity epidemiology and prevention research.

A list of courses meeting the requirements will be provided to the students in the concentration.

Upon graduation, students registered in the concentration will apply to receive their letter attesting to the completion of requirements in Obesity Epidemiology and Prevention.

ID537 Obesity Epidemiology – Core Course 

Department of Epidemiology, Department of Nutrition
Instructors: Dr. Frank Hu, Dr. Jorge Chavarro
2.5 Credits
Lectures. One 2-hour session each week.

This course reviews current evidence on the burden, causes, consequences, and prevention of obesity from an epidemiological perspective. The course also reviews common epidemiologic methods to conduct obesity research and provides students with skills to critically analyze studies in obesity epidemiology. The policy and public health implications of recent findings in obesity research are discussed through case-studies.

Course Note: BIO200, BIO201 or BIO200s and BIO200t, and EPI 200, EPI201 or EPI208 required.

ID214 Nutritional Epidemiology – Core Course  

Department of Nutrition, Department of Epidemiology
Instructors: Dr. Walter C. Willett, Eilis J. O’Reilly
2.5 credits
Lectures. One 2-hour session each week.

Reviews methods for assessing the dietary intake of populations and individuals. Students gain experience in the actual collection, analysis and interpretation of dietary intake. The course also reviews several specific diet/disease relationships, integrating information from international studies, secular trends, clinical trials, analytical epidemiology, and animal experiments.

Course Note: BIO 200, BIO 201 or BIO 200s and BIO 200t, and EPI 200, EPI 201 or EPI 208 required; familiarity with regression/ANOVA recommended; signature of instructor required for students who have not taken a course in nutrition. (6.06)

ID 541 Advanced Topics in Obesity Epidemiology & Prevention – Core Course

Department of Nutrition, Department Society, Human Dev. & Health
Instructors: Dr. Frank Hu, Dr. Steven Gortmaker
2.5 credits
Lectures. One 2-hour session each week.

This course reviews advanced methods in assessment of obesity, diet, and physical activity in epidemiologic and intervention studies. It also reviews study designs, cost-effectiveness analysis, and evaluation methods in obesity research. The course also discusses the role of physical environment, food environment, and policy environment in current epidemic of obesity and reviews the impact of nutrition transition and globalization of the economy on obesity risk in developing countries. Finally, the course examines the state of translational and dissemination research in obesity prevention.



Recommended Courses 

The following is a list of academic courses offered by the Harvard School of Public Health . Course descriptions and schedules are available from the Registrar’s Office.  Students should also check with the registrar to confirm that courses are being offered that academic year, and for updates to course credits, names, etc. 

  • SHH231 Community Intervention Research Methods
  • ID512 MolecularBasis of Nutritional and Metabolic Diseases
  • ID236 SocialEpidemiology
  • ID540 Life CourseEpidemiology
  • SHH201 Society andHealth
  • SHH211 HealthPromotion through Mass Media
  • ID539 BicycleEnvironments in the U.S.and The Netherlands/Denmark
  • NUT201 Principlesof Nutrition
  • NUT210 Nutritional Problems of Less-Developed Countries
  • GHP272 Foundations of Global Health and Population
  • GHP507 Population Health Risk Factors
  • HPM206 Economic Analysis
  • EPI223 Cardiovascular Epidemiology
  • EPI233 Research Synthesis & Meta-Analysis
  • EPI222 GeneticEpidemiology of Diabetes and its Complications
  • SHH245 Social andBehavioral Research Methods Part I
  • EPI224 Cancer Prevention
  • GHP293 Individual and Social Responsibility for Health

SHH231 Community Intervention Research Methods

Dr. G. Sorensen, Dr. J. Allen
2.5 credits
Lectures. Seminars. One 3-hour session each week.

This course is designed to provide students skills in intervention research design and methodology. The course will review phases of research for community studies; applying theoretical models to intervention and evaluation design; linking study design to intervention planning; community linkages to intervention research planning and implementation; community-originated research and participatory research methods; qualitative/formative research; evaluation design issues for intervention research; measurement of outcomes. Students will also develop skills in critiquing community intervention studies.

Course Activities: Assigned readings, class participation, term paper.

Course Note: Graduate course in program design or program planning required (e.g. HSB227cd, HSB202a, or MCM215cd); enrollment limited to 20 students; signature of instructor required.

ID512 Molecular Basis of Nutritional and Metabolic Diseases

Department of Genetics and Complex Diseases and Department of Nutrition
Dr. G. Hotamisligil, Dr. C. H. Lee
2.5 credits
Seminars. One 2-hour session and one 1-hour seminar each week

Students have an opportunity to review and analyze key papers that provide physiological and molecular evidence that bears on a topic of current interest in human nutrition and related disorders. Additionally, students learn skills necessary for critical thinking, and oral and written presentations.
Course Note: HSPH degree candidates only; signature of instructor required.

ID236 SocialEpidemiology

Departments of Society, Human Development, and Health and the Department of Epidemiology Dr. D. Williams
2.5 credits
Course offered 2007-2008; offered alternate years.
Lectures, seminars. One 3-hour session each week.
The course will focus on understanding the social determinants of health. Readings and discussion center on understanding the theories, measurement and empirical evidence related to specific social conditions and experiences such as socioeconomic position, discrimination, social networks and support, work conditions, ecological level neighborhood and community social conditions, and social and economic policies. Biological and psychological mechanisms by which social conditions influence health will be discussed. The course builds on a basic understanding of society and health and of epidemiology. Students will be required to present in class and evaluate methods and measures.
Course Activities: Assigned readings; class presentations and discussions; term paper.
Course Note: Enrollment limited to 20 students; SHH 201, EPI 200 or EPI 201 and EPI 202 required; no auditors. (5.06)

ID540 Life CourseEpidemiology 

Spring 1, 2010
Dr. S. Gilman, Dr. K. Koenen
2.5 Credits
Lectures, Seminars, Case Study. Two 2-hour sessions each week.

The field of life course epidemiology approaches disease etiology and prevention from the perspective of dynamic risk and protective factors that impact health throughout the human lifespan. Research in the area of life course epidemiology ranges from investigating the fetal and early childhood origins of adult health and disease to understanding how risk and protective processes influence health within specific developmental periods and between them. There are two major themes that will be covered in this course. The first theme, Applications in Life Course Epidemiology (e.g., The Life Course Epidemiology of . . .), introduces students to the application of life course theories and methods to specific public health problems (e.g., chronic disease, mental health, health disparities). The second theme, Methods in Life Course Epidemiology, introduces the major concepts and methodological challenges in investigating disease risks longitudinally, covering topics such as exposure assessment, analytic methods, and causal inference.

Course Activities: Assigned readings, lectures, seminars, class presentations, and short papers.

Course Note: Epi 200 or Epi 201 and Bio 200 or 201, or ID538 required; no auditors.

SHH201 Society andHealth 

Fall 1

Dr. I. Kawachi

2.5 credits
Lectures and case studies. Five 2-hour sessions each week.

Analyzes major social variables that affect population health: poverty, social class, gender, race, family, community, work, behavioral risks, and coping resources. Examines health consequences of social and economic policies, and the potential role of specific social interventions. Reviews empirical and theoretical literature on mechanisms and processes that mediate between social factors and their health effects, and discusses alternative models for advancing public health.
Course Activities: Short written assignments, class discussion, final examination.
Course Note: Departmental requirement in the Department of Society, Human Development and Health Course 

SHH211 HealthPromotion through Mass Media 

Spring 1

Dr. K. Viswanath
2.5 credits
Lectures. One 3-hour session each week.

Covers the development of public communication campaigns in the field of health promotion: assessing what the mass media can accomplish to promote health; designing mass media messages that are consonant with principles of behavioral science and the public health model; and strategic planning for integrated mass media campaigns. 

Course evaluations are an important method for feedback on the quality of course offerings. The submission of a course evaluation is a requirement for this course. Your grade for the course will be made available only after you have submitted responses to at least the first three questions of the on-line evaluation for this course.

ID539 BicycleEnvironments in the U.S.and The Netherlands/Denmark 

Fall 2
Dr. A. Lusk, Dr. W. Willett (S), Dr. J. Spengler, Dr. J. Dennerlein
2.5 Credits
Course Not Offered 2009-2010.

Lectures, Case Studies. Two 2-hour sessions each week.

This course is for any individual who wishes to examine the relation of the built environmental to physical activity, obesity, and global warming. Students will compare and discuss design guidelines, policies, laws, and populations served in the bicycle environments in the U.S. and the Netherlands/Denmark. Transportation and urban planning studies from the differing countries will be contrasted so students can suggest improvements to public health for all populations through enhanced bicycle environments. Students will select the track or topic area based on their interest associated with bicycling in the U.S. and the Netherlands/Denmark and write what could be at class end: 1) a thesis topic; 2) a grant; 3) a trade market short article; or 4) a poster. At the culmination of the course, students will present their recommendations orally, through speed talks, and in written form with one creative graphic, based on the teachings of Edward Tufte, on their design guideline, law, or policy associated with bicycling. This course will be a beneficial addition to other course offerings in public health as HSPH focuses more on ways of translating information on nutrition, physical activity, and health into practice.

Course Activities: Discussion, lectures, guest lectures, writing 3 one page papers that culminate in one final paper, editing peer writing, preparing graphics, and delivering short presentations. Materials include readings, websites, webcams, and video clips.

NUT201 Principlesof Nutrition

Fall 2
Dr. C. Lo, Department Members
2.5 credits
Lectures. Two 2-hour sessions each week.

Overview of nutrition from epidemiologic, clinical, metabolic, and international perspectives, including nutritional assessment, malnutrition, obesity, eating disorders, relationships between nutrition and cancer and heart disease, and special topics of interest to students. No previous scientific background is required. (5.06)

NUT210 Nutritional Problems of Less-Developed Countries

Dr. W. Fawzi
2.5 credits
Lectures. One 2-hour session each week.

Discusses the nutrition problems of less-developed countries. Reviews the epidemiological, biological and behavioral consequences of malnutrition. Emphasizes infectious disease (HIV, TB, malaria, diarrhea, among others) and perinatal outcomes (e.g. fetal loss, low birth weight, pre-eclampsia) including issues relevant to the formulation of nutrition policy and programs.
Course Note: No auditors.

GHP272 Foundations of Global Health and Population 

D. Bloom, J. Lamstein
5.0 credits
Lectures, seminars. Two 2-hour sessions and one 2-hour lab each week.

This course is required for all incoming master of science and doctoral students. It is intended as a broad survey of the main facts, issues, perspectives, methods, results, and conclusions in the areas of global population and health.

The course is organized into three blocks. The first block deals with theory, methods, and evidence related to the state of global health and population and reviews salient population and health issues, both past and present. The focus is on patterns and trends in morbidity, mortality, fertility, and reproductive health, as well as the size, structure, and growth of population. Environmental concerns linked to health and population are also addressed.

The second block deals with the economic, social, legal, political, and ecological context in which global health and population issues arise and must be addressed. This block introduces economic, political, and rights-based perspectives on the place of health in the process of international development.

The third block covers approaches to the design and implementation of policies and programs to address health and population problems. Medical interventions, non-medical health interventions, and non-health interventions will all be considered.

Course Note: Space guaranteed for all SM and doctoral students in the department of Global Health and Population; others on a first-come basis.

GHP507 Population Health Risk Factors

Spring 1
Dr. M. Ezzati
2.5 credits
Lectures. Two 2-hour sessions.

Detailed knowledge of the roles of diseases and injuries, and of their causes and risk factors, is essential evidence for health policies and for planning and evaluating health systems and intervention programs. A substantial body of work has focused on the quantification of mortality and more recently non-fatal health outcomes, as covered in GHP220 (Introduction to Demographic Methods) and GHP506 (Measuring Population Health). Data on disease or injury outcomes alone tend to focus on palliative or curative services. Reliable and comparable analyses of lifestyle, environmental, and nutritional risks to health, on the other hand, are needed for preventing disease and injury. This course is designed to guide students through the multitude of concepts, methods, and data needed to conduct systematic assessment of health risks at the population level, and their applications, for example, in evaluating public health policies and intervention options.

The course builds on the knowledge and skills acquired in introductory epidemiology courses. The methods learned in the course, in addition to their independent applications to public health problems and priority setting, serve as a basis for other courses in the School, including those on evaluating the impact of health interventions, priority-setting using combinations of burden of disease and economic analyses.

The first block of lectures focuses on the concepts of risk assessment and the basic methods and data needs used for population level risk assessment. The second part of the course introduces the concepts of multiple risk factors and their analytical as well as public health implications. The last part of the course introduces the students to time dimensions of risk factor exposure, avoidable disease burden, and forecasts of future trends in disease with and without changes in the risk factors. The second and third blocks form the core of a more advanced risk factor course (GHP509).

Course Note: BIO200 or BIO201 and EPI200 or EPI201, or permission of the instructor required; ordinal grading option only.

HPM206 Economic Analysis

Dr. D. Hemenway
5 credits
Lectures. Three 2-hour sessions each week.

Designed to bring students to an intermediate-level understanding of microeconomic theory. Emphasizes the uses and limitations of the economic approach, with applications to health and medical care.
Course Note: Students who have taken HPM 205 must obtain the signature of instructor.

EPI223 Cardiovascular Epidemiology

Fall 2
Dr. D. Mozaffarian
2.5 credits
Lectures, in-class presentations. Two 2-hour sessions each week.

This course reviews the epidemiology of cardiovascular disease, including the major cardiovascular diseases, related conditions, emerging risk factors, and current controversies. The principal methods used, and their limitation, will also be discussed. Both historically important and current research will be presented. Grades are based on participation in class discussions, brief written paper critiques, and an in-class presentation. There is no midterm or final exam.

EPI233 Research Synthesis & Meta-Analysis


Dr. C. Hsieh
2.5 credits
Seminars. One 1.5-hour session each week.

Concerned with the explosion of biological data for etiologic inquiry and the use of existing data to inform public health decision making, the course focuses on research synthesis and meta-analysis. We will review the principles and methods for combining epidemiology studies and introduce how other types of scientific evidence, such as toxicology or mode-of-action data, can be incorporated using weight-of-evidence analyses. This course will emphasize the use of critical reviews and meta-analysis to explore data and identify sources of variation among studies.

Course Activities: Students will learn the principles of a systematic review, to use existing meta-analysis software to apply principles outlined in the course on example data sets, and, on a topic of their choice, to conduct a critical review or meta-analysis that approximately weights effect estimates in each study, assesses uncertainty, and incorporates other kinds of scientific data in the overall analysis.

Course Note: EPI200 or EPI201 and BIO200, BIO201, or BIO202 and BIO203 .

Course evaluations are an important method for feedback on the quality of course offerings. The submission of a course evaluation is a requirement for this course. Your grade for the course will be made available only after you have submitted responses to at least the first three questions of the on-line evaluation for this course.

EPI222 Genetic Epidemiology of Diabetes and its Complications 

Spring 2

Dr. F. Hu, Dr. A. Doria

2.5 credits

Course offered 2008-2009; taught alternate years.
Seminar, case studies, laboratories. Two 2-hour seminars each week.

The genetics of diabetes and its complications, together with the descriptive epidemiology of these conditions, will be used to illustrate the process of generating etiologic hypotheses that can be studied by the methods of genetic epidemiology. Techniques of molecular genetics relevant to epidemiologic studies will be reviewed and demonstrated. Data sets that include genotype information will be analyzed with an emphasis placed on the examination of various gene/environment interaction.
Course Note: EPI 202 required; lab or section time to be announced at first meeting; ordinal grading option only. (5.06)

SHH245 Social andBehavioral Research Methods Part I

Dr. S. Gortmaker, Dr. L. Berkman
5 credits
Seminars. Two 2-hour sessions each week.

Provides a broad overview of social and behavioral research methodology, including experimental, quasi-experimental and non-experimental research design, measurement, sampling, data collection, and testing causal theories. By case studies, methodological readings, discussion, written assignments, and data analytic homeworks students learn to conduct social and behavioral research and more applied program evaluations. Homework includes analytic work with observational and experimental studies and development of new measures.
Course Activities: Assigned readings, class participation, homeworks, reflections, two papers.
Course Note: BIO 210, BIO 211 or BIO 213 or equivalent required; enrollment limited to 20; a multivariate statistics course strongly recommended; course primarily for doctoral students. (5.06)

EPI224 Cancer Prevention Spring 2

Dr. L. Frazier, Dr. C. Stein
2.5 credits
Lectures, case studies. Two 2-hour session each week

The course will help students develop a framework for analyzing and designing cancer prevention interventions to reduce the burden of cancer. Approaches to cancer prevention will be reviewed with the principal emphasis on primary prevention. The lectures and readings will examine different theoretical and practical issues around effectiveness, feasibility, and sustainability of interventions, including theories of behavior change, population vs. high-risk approaches, risk perception and communication, and barriers to implementation. Through problem-based learning exercises, students will review the strategies for cancer prevention in the areas of tobacco control, physical activity and obesity, and screening and vaccines, in addition to other topics. We will emphasize the timing of prevention in the context of the natural history of disease etiology (e.g. breast cancer) and consider population-based approaches to prevention (e.g. skin cancer). Strategies for prevention on multiple levels will also be examined. Levels of intervention from action by health care providers (e.g., counseling and screening), regulatory policy, social structural changes, and individual behavior changes will be emphasized. Key components necessary for prevention policy will include an adequate knowledge base, social strategies, and political will. Students will have homework assignments to collect and summarize information based on case studies, which will be used to develop a cancer prevention intervention as a final project. Grades will be based on class participation, short homework assignments and a final project paper and presentation.
Course Note: Requirement in the Cancer Education Program

GHP293 Individual and Social Responsibility for Health

Fall 1
Dr. D. Wikler
2.5 credits
Lectures, case studies. Two 2-hour sessions each week.

The concept of responsibility for health plays a key role in health policy, but it is rarely articulated or evaluated. In this course, students will consider alternative understandings of assignments of responsibility for health to individuals, the state, the family, communities, nonprofit and for-profit firms, and other entities. They will identify their occurrences in health policy debates, assess the cogency of their use in ethical arguments in health policy, and trace the policy consequences of their normative analyses. The course will also serve as an introduction to ethical perspectives on public health.
Course Note: Minimum enrollment of 15 required. Evaluation of Performance: Exams and a term project identifying and evaluating the role of responsibility for health in an area health policy. (5.06)