Master of Public Health in the Field of Community Oriented Primary Care

Program Director C. Rodriguez-Diaz

Mission Statement

The mission of the master of public health (MPH) community-oriented primary care (COPC) program is to train students to become health professionals and public health practitioners in the field of community health. Program graduates partner with the community to create and evaluate evidence-based interventions to improve public health, clinical care outcomes and the patient experience. These reforms contribute to lower health care costs and decreases health disparities.


The COPC program trains future health care innovators in the methods of COPC which provide skills to conceptualize, implement, evaluate, and disseminate interventions that bridge public health and clinical medicine. COPC begins by teaching practitioners methods to fully understand the needs of communities, health care providers and policy makers. Concurrently, skills are developed to read and interpret literature to inform future intervention design. With this in-depth understanding, COPC practitioners learn to work with stakeholders to prioritize interventions that have a high likelihood of improving health outcomes and patient experience while lowering health care costs and decreasing health disparities. COPC practitioners learn to conduct in-depth assessments, which help to shape intervention design and serve as baseline data to evaluate intervention impact. Acquired Intervention skills include implementation of social marketing campaigns, advocacy campaigns, mobile health interventions, individual brief behavioral interventions, peer interventions, quality improvement projects using data from electronic health records, structural interventions to impact health behaviors, and health system innovations to improve the ability of community based organizations to educate, test, and link to care patients with preventable and chronic health conditions. Evaluation skills are acquired that include analysis of qualitative, quantitative, and cost data. Dissemination skills are acquired to take best practices to scale. Through experiential learning COPC practitioners develop the skills necessary to lead health improvement projects in community, health department, academic, and clinical settings. 


The following are goals of this educational program:

  • Provide the knowledge and skills necessary to implement a COPC program.
  • Provide an analytical framework for evaluating community-based interventions using the principles and methods of COPC as a reference.
  • Provide opportunities for COPC practice, especially within vulnerable communities.
  • Create health and public health practitioners with skills necessary to excel in the following positions:
    • Clinic Quality Improvement Specialist (clinic setting)
    • Patient Centered Medical Home team leader (clinic setting)
    • Supervisor of patient care coordination (clinic or MCO setting)
    • Community health specialist (community, clinic or public health setting)
    • Health promotion specialist (community or clinic setting)
    • Supervisor of Community Health Worker program  (community or clinic setting)
    • Community Health Research coordinator (academic, clinic or community setting)
    • Director of community clinic or community health organization  (With dual health and MPH degree)


COPC provides the bridge between clinical medicine and public health, in which the community is the focal point in the delivery of health care. It provides a conceptual and methodological framework to rationalize, organize, and adapt available resources to the delivery of health services. The methods are essential to the organized delivery of health care in community based practices, organizations engaged in managed care, and responsive governmental health systems.

The basic concepts of COPC were initially implemented in South Africa during the early 1940's by Sidney and Emily Kark with the creation of community health centers. These centers promoted a reorientation of health services at the community level through a unique linkage between individual clinical care and public health. They served as a laboratory for teaching and training health professionals.

Since that time, COPC has been taught and practiced in a number of settings around the world. Significantly, it has been an important element in the Community Health Center movement, the Indian Health Service, and a number of urban health departments in the United States as well as a variety of public health and primary care systems around the world. Developments in computer-based information management, mobile health, geographic information systems, and qualitative information gathering techniques have proved important assets to COPC practice.

The Concept of COPC

The essence of COPC is the planning and delivery of health care to a defined community in response to the defined needs of that community. To do this successfully requires the planned integration of the classical public health roles of health promotion and disease prevention at population levels with the delivery of primary health care, which focuses on the clinical treatment of disease and its sequelae. COPC recognizes that, in line with the World Health Organization definition of health as being far more than the absence of disease, a clinical practice should be responsive to the broad health needs of the community and should be flexible enough to respond to changes in those needs. COPC can be defined as a continuous process by which primary care is provided to a defined community on the basis of its assessed health needs through the planned integration of public health with clinical practice The COPC program curriculum teaches a six-step process as follows:

  1. Community definition
  2. Community characterization
  3. Problem prioritization
  4. Detailed assessment
  5. Intervention
  6. Evaluation

The overall curriculum is designed to give the learner the necessary public health tools to apply the principles of COPC in the context of community health practice and to be well educated in the disciplines of applied public health.

Visit the program website for additional program information.

The following requirements must be fulfilled: 45 credits, including 15 credits in core courses, 6 credits in departmental core courses, 14 credits in program-specific courses, 8 credits in elective courses, and a 2-credit culminating experience.

Core courses
PUBH 6002Biostatistical Applications for Public Health
PUBH 6003Principles and Practices of Epidemiology
PUBH 6007Social and Behavioral Approaches to Public Health
PUBH 6011Environmental and Biological Foundations of Public Health
PUBH 6012Fundamentals of Health Policy
PUBH 6021Essentials of Public Health Practice and Leadership I
PUBH 6022Essentials of Public Health Practice and Leadership II
PUBH 6023Interprofessional Education Experience
Departmental courses
PUBH 6500Planning and Implementing Health Promotion Programs
PUBH 6501Program Evaluation
Program-specific courses
PUBH 6504Social and Behavioral Science Research Methods
PUBH 6510Community-Oriented Primary Care Principles and Practice
PUBH 6512Community-Oriented Primary Care Policy and Issues
PUBH 6513Community Health Management
PUBH 6514Preventing Health Disparities
PUBH 6516Community Health Information Resources
8 credits from the following list of recommended courses or any other graduate-level PUBH courses:
HSML 6204Quality and Performance Improvement
PUBH 6249Use of Statistical Packages: Data Management and Data Analysis
PUBH 6262Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
PUBH 6503Introduction to Public Health Communication and Marketing
PUBH 6530Qualitative Methods in Health Promotion
PUBH 6531Health Promotion in Health Care Settings
PUBH 6532Community Organization, Development, and Advocacy
PUBH 6534Community-Based Participatory Research
Culminating experience
PUBH 6015Culminating Experience

Graduation Requirements

  1. Graduate credit requirement: 45 graduate credits.
  2. Course requirements: Successful completion of core and program-specific courses.
  3. Practicum Requirement: Students are required to fulfill all requirements of the Applied Practice Experience (Practicum) to receive credit for PUBH 6022.
  4. Interprofessional Education Experience (IPE):  Students are required to enroll and participate in an authorized IPE activity (PUBH 6023).
  5. Minimum grade-point requirement: minimum 3.0 (B average) cumulative grade-point average.
  6. Time limit requirement: The degree must be completed within five years.
  7. Transfer credit policy: With approval, up to 12 graduate credits that have not been applied to any previous graduate degree may be transferred to the master of public health program. External credits must have been earned from an accredited institution in the last three years with a minimum grade of 3.0 (B) in each course. Students in SPH graduate certificate programs can transfer as many credits earned toward the certificate to the MPH degree as meet MPH degree requirements, to a maximum of 18 credits.
  8. Graduate certificate students wishing to transfer to a degree program may apply to do so after completion of three or more courses with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 via the online change of concentration petition. A grade of B or above is required for a specific course to be eligible for transfer.  
  9. CITI Training requirement: All students are required to complete training regarding human subject protection regulation and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
  10. Integrity Quiz and Plagiarism requirement: All students are required to review the George Washington University Code of Academic Integrity and take the SPH Academic Integrity Quiz at GWSPH Source. within their first semester of study.
  11. Professional Enhancement requirement: Students must participate in eight hours of public health-related lectures, seminars, and symposia, related to their field of study.