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Organizing for Public Health: a Systems Approach

2nd term
Online Programs for Applied Learning
2 credits
Academic Year:
2021 - 2022
Instruction Method:
Auditors Allowed:
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructors:
Ligia Paina

Must have completed all 1st year courses to enroll in this course


Systems thinking, (ST), is a holistic approach to analyzing how components of complex systems interact and adapt. Through systems thinking we can understand how societies organize themselves to achieve collective health goals and how different actors contribute to policy outcomes. Provides students with an understanding of how to apply ST in public health. Trains students on the fundamentals of ST theory and offers an opportunity to apply key methods and approaches to health policy and health questions. Prepares students to ask relevant research questions and apply a ST lens to describe, understand, and anticipate complex behavior. Examines how systems models can be critically appraised and communicated with others so public health policy makers can exercise a greater degree of wisdom and insight.

Learning Objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify characteristics of a system and the unintended consequences of public health system changes
  2. Critically appraise systems models
  3. Assess strengths and weaknesses of applying the systems approach to public health problems
  4. Use participatory modeling approaches to understand how to engage with diverse stakeholders, how unanticipated consequences emerge, and what to do about them
  5. Use systems diagrams and figures to show how feedback loops might lead to unanticipated consequences
Methods of Assessment:

This course is evaluated as follows:

  • 15% Participation
  • 35% Quizzes
  • 40% Paper(s)
  • 10% Peer assessment for Group Paper

Enrollment Restriction:

Restricted to students in an OPAL certificate or degree program

Instructor Consent:

No consent required