Health Policy


MPH@GW’s health policy elective courses are designed for students who aspire to be influential leaders in the health care field, passionate about improving health systems and public health by effectively communicating and implementing policies. With a health policy background, you can impact and enhance public health from the highest levels of health care management and exploration.

In today’s ever-changing political sphere, health care continues to be a complex system in need of expert analytical professionals to create new policies for advancement. Individuals who work in public health policy collaborate with other experts to oversee the marketing and implementation of policies and strategies that will improve health systems worldwide.

What Is Health Policy?

The study of health policy focuses on how to become an effective communicator and leader when collaborating with other professionals — inside and outside the field of public health — to create and apply health policies. Health policy professionals strategize, organize and implement health-enhancing initiatives through policy education and marketing.

MPH@GW’s elective courses in health policy will give you understanding of analyzing research, creating services and spreading awareness of public health issues. In fact, GW faculty research has been influential as legislators, policymakers, health care providers, insurers and the government continue to work toward improving health care legislation in the United States.

"I was really drawn to the fact that the MPH@GW faculty has a wealth of experience in U.S. regulatory affairs. I found this to be unique among the other programs I considered and was also drawn to the program format, which helps accommodate my busy professional life."
— Melinda McLawhorn, Team Leader, FDA Office of Prescription Drug Promotion

Fields of Interest

Professionals in health policy work for organizations or agencies that concentrate on the following areas:

  • Children’s health policy
  • Immunization laws and policy
  • Women’s health policy
  • Health equality policy
  • International public policy

Our students who choose to study health policy typically aspire to:

  • Conduct objective research that is translated into practice, policy and leadership
  • Become a trusted resource for shaping and advancing health policy and health care management options
  • Leverage GW’s prime location in Washington, D.C. — the nation’s hub for health policy — to collaborate with health systems, health care executives, public health practitioners and policy leaders
  • Improve the health and well-being of vulnerable, underserved populations
"We didn’t just learn about writing policy memos, grants, budgets or designing campaigns; we actually had to do those activities. I feel prepared to enter into the field. It’s also pretty exciting to be a graduate of one of the most stellar public health programs in the country."
– Stephanie Melquist, MD, MPH

Job Outlook

Employment of health services managers is expected to grow 20 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is a faster growth rate than the average for all occupations.1 The rising need for health workers stems from an aging population, increasing efforts to reduce health care costs, a high demand for medical services and the movement to improve health outcomes by spreading awareness about healthy habits and behavior.

For additional information related to health policy, read these posts:


With MPH@GW, you will complete 9 to 11 elective credits hours. Interested in health policy? Consider choosing the following elective courses to match your interests.

Public Health Leadership Seminar


This course provides students with the opportunity to learn leadership lessons from the careers of a diverse group of leaders who are successful executives and entrepreneurs from multiple sectors including corporate, government, non-profit, and the arts. It will present the chance to discuss and reflect on leadership styles, provide exposure to leadership theory, assist in the development of effective networking skills, and prepare students for effectively engaging with their peers, personal network, potential employers, and business partners. The Leadership Seminar deliberately provides a unique setting for students to consider themselves as leaders in their personal lives and their careers.

Public Health Law


Designed for students in the public health professions and law, this course examines how law can both promote public health and conflict with the constitutionally-protected rights of individuals. It introduces and examines the legal concepts that underlie the public health system and inform public health policy-making in the United States. Topics to be covered include the role of law in public health care and policy (e.g., governmental powers vs. civil liberties and public health governance); the law’s effect on major areas of public health activity (e.g., communication, health promotion, immunization, screening, treatment, isolation, quarantine, surveillance, research and economic activity); and an introduction to the global public health law infrastructure.

Law, Medicine, and Ethics


This course explores legal, ethical, and policy issues that arise in the biomedical arena. We address controversial and challenging questions concerning, inter alia, the definitions of life and death, the nature of personal identity, the requirements of justice, and the boundaries of liberty. We will draw on legal, medical, and ethical/philosophical literature in examining these issues.

Prescription Drugs, Policy & Public Health


This course will introduce students to fundamental concepts and issues related to prescription drugs, policy, and public health. The course is designed to walk students through the life cycle of prescription drugs beginning with research and development and ending with the public health impact of drugs – such as prescription drug abuse. The course will review key policies and public health programs related to each stage of a prescription drug’s life cycle, including Congressional funding focused on speeding the development and approval of needed drugs, public and private approaches to increase access to prescription drugs, and exceptions to international laws that allow some countries to violate a prescription drug patent for the sake of improving the health of their impoverished citizens. Throughout this course, students will be asked to critically reflect on evidence based or at least evidence informed innovative approaches to address the public health challenges of prescription drugs and consider the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches with any eye towards eventually answering the challenges. The assignments in the course are primarily “real world” assignments that allow students to express their ideas and thoughts in real world forums beyond the classroom setting. This approach is used in order to challenge students to apply what they are learning in class to real world problems and also for students to see that their thinking can match that of experts in the field.

Global Health Diplomacy


This course introduces students to the concept of Global Health Diplomacy, starting with historical case studies of how diplomacy has been used to advance health agendas, and conversely, how health issues have been used to improve diplomatic relations between countries. We introduce students to formal health diplomacy, multi-stakeholder health diplomacy and informal health diplomacy, and provide comparative studies of how different countries have devised health diplomacy strategies.

Take the Next Step

If you are ready to advance your career in public health with an online MPH from GW, request more information today.

1 (2017) (Accessed March 2, 2018)Return to footnote reference