Students are required to take a total of five courses: in addition to one foundational course, students take three electives from within eight different categories, and also complete a research requirement.

1 Foundational Course

The program’s three foundational courses, which also fulfill General Education requirements, cover topics in both global health and domestic health policy. They serve as gateways to further study in GHHP, but they may be taken at any time during pursuit of the secondary field.

  • Gen Ed 1063. World Health: Challenges and Opportunities 
  • Gen Ed 1079. Why is There No Cure for Health? 
  • Gen Ed 1093. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Cares? Reimagining Global Health 
  • Sociology 1046: Life and Death by Design

3 Additional Courses

The three electives are fulfilled by taking one course in three of the following eight categories. It's important to remember that only one course per category will be counted. Note that the eight categories are divided into two distributional groupings, Social Sciences and Humanites, and Sciences; students are strongly encouraged, but not required, to take at least one course from each grouping. View course options in the eight categories in the GHHP courses listing.

Social Sciences and Humanities

  • Economics of Health
  • Ethics of Health
  • Health and Demography
  • Health, Culture, and Society
  • History and Practice of Medicine
  • Politics of Health


  • Engineering Sciences and Statistics
  • Science of Health and Disease

1 Research Course

There are four ways to fulfill the GHHP research requirement:

1. Senior thesis pertaining to global health or health policy (for students concentrating in the social sciences or humanities)

The student must email the GHHP program a thesis prospectus/précis by October of their senior year. GHHP will review the prospectus and notify the student if the thesis topic will satisfy our research requirement. An electronic copy of the thesis is due to GHHP on the day the thesis is due to the concentration.

It is important to note that one semester of the thesis tutorial will double count for the secondary field. Therefore, thesis writers will not be able to double count any other concentration course for the secondary field.

2. An extra chapter on the health policy/global health implications of a science thesis

Students wishing to pursue this option should set up a meeting with the GHHP program to discuss it in person (please email Debbie Whitney). Please note that this is ONLY an option for hard science, engineering, and computer science concentrators. The extra thesis chapter must be at least 15 pages in length, not including graphics or bibliography. The extra chapter, along with the thesis, must be emailed to GHHP by the beginning of the spring semester Reading Period; please see our extra thesis chapter webpage for the specific deadline each year. Editorial guidlines for the extra chapter are as follows: double-spaced, Times New Roman size 12 font, 1-inch margins, and the citation style mandated by your concentration.

Students pursuing this option should keep in mind that although the GHHP Secondary Field is able to offer some research and writing guidance from a Health Policy graduate student, the extra chapter is something a student undertakes mostly independently.

It is important to note that one semester of the thesis tutorial will double count for the GHHP Secondary Field. Therefore, thesis writers will not be able to double count any other concentration course for GHHP.

3. GHHP 99: Research in Global Health and Health Policy

This course is offered every spring semester. Professor David Cutler is the course head, but the course is taught primarily by graduate students in small sections. Students develop critical thinking skills needed to analyze key challenges in global health and health policy and write a policy paper that provides new insight into a contemporary health policy or public health issue. Students are encouraged to have a topic (or a few topics) in mind before beginning the class.

4. A Supervised Reading and Research course

There are two variations on this option. Please note that with these courses, the onus is on the student to find a faculty mentor and a topic to pursue.

  • First, a student may undertake a Supervised Reading and Research course in a department other than GHHP (for example, by enrolling in Government 91r). In this instance, students are required to comply with the particular department’s instructions for completion of a Supervised Reading and Research. Students pursuing this option must send their research proposal to the GHHP Department (email Debbie Whitney) at the same time they petition the other department to undertake the course. GHHP will review the proposal and notify the student if the topic will satisfy the GHHP research requirement; approval is not automatic. An electronic copy of the paper (which must be at least 20 pages in length exclusive of graphics or bibliography) is due to GHHP on the day it is due for course credit.
  • The second option is GHHP 91: Supervised Reading and Research. Please note that you must be a declared GHHP Secondary Field student in order to register for GHHP 91. Students who wish to register for this course must submit two things via email to Debbie Whitney before the course registration deadline for the term in which the student plans to take the course:

1) Completed and signed GHHP 91 contract (available on our GHHP 91 webpage)

2) 1-2 page research topic proposal and preliminary reading list (must be together in one document)

In order to complete GHHP 91, the student is required to submit a research paper (minimum of 20 pages exclusive of graphics or bibliography, with the same editorial guidelines as the extra thesis chapter) to both the advisor and the GHHP Program (email Debbie Whitney) during Reading Period. The advisor is responsible for evaluating the paper, which will be letter graded. Please visit our GHHP 91 webpage for full details.

Other Information

  • Only one of the five courses may be non-letter-graded. (Exception: two courses may be taken non-letter-graded if one is a senior thesis tutorial satisfying the GHHP research requirement.)
  • According to FAS guidelines, only one course may double count for a secondary field and concentration.
  • There are no limits on the number of courses that may double count for a secondary field and Gen Ed.
  • A maximum of two non-FAS courses may count for the secondary field. This includes courses taken at other Harvard Schools, including Harvard Summer School, and courses taken in study abroad programs.