Case Library

Welcome to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Case-Based Teaching and Learning Center Library!

This page contains a catalog of public health teaching cases, covering a wide range of public health topics – epidemiology; environmental health; health policy; health services management; organizational behavior; social and behavioral determinants of health; and global health, among others. These cases are designed to engage students in real-life situations that reflect issues they will face as public health professionals.

You can search for cases by scrolling through the list below.

Filter your search by clicking on a category or key word to the right.  

Some cases are available by email request from the faculty author.  A link to their email is provided next to the case listing.

Other cases and teaching notes can be downloaded directly from this site. Teaching notes are protected; if you are a Harvard faculty member or instructor, you will be asked for your Harvard University ID, and will be able to download the teaching note free of charge. Faculty from other institutions are asked to use this order form and someone will be in touch with you to complete your order and arrange for billing. Currently, there is a $3.50 charge per student for use of cases and teaching notes.

Our newest cases will be available through the Harvard Business Publishing website, using the link provided.

If you have questions, please contact Susan Madden at

We welcome your suggestions and feedback.

All Cases

2018. “TraumaLink: Providing Trauma First Aid Services in Bangladesh Using Trained Volunteers”.Abstract

As the CEO of TraumaLink, a four-year-old social venture that provided trauma first aid to victims of traffic injuries in Bangladesh--a country with some of the most dangerous highways in the world but no formal emergency response system--Dr. Jon Moussally faced a number of challenges in 2017.

As a practicing emergency room physician and public health student, Jon had been shocked by the chaotic traffic that he observed during a 2013 trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh, for a course on global health. Over the next 18 months, Jon and three partners—two fellow students and the Bangladeshi head of a local social venture organization—decided on a three-pronged approach: they would train community-based volunteers who lived or worked close to the highway to provide free basic trauma first aid; they would develop an easy-to-use 911-type software system to deploy volunteers quickly to a crash scene; and they planned to raise operating funds by selling advertising or subscriptions to companies in Bangladesh whose workers travelled the dangerous highways daily.

By the fall of 2017, TraumaLink had been successfully launched along two particularly dangerous sections of highways. Their trained volunteers had been able to quickly and effectively provide first aid to victims of traffic injuries. The software had worked well to notify and deploy volunteers and collect data. However, Jon and his partners had not yet found sustainable, long-term sources of revenue, despite almost four years of trying. After an initial pilot phase in November 2014, the organization had been awarded $142,500 by the US Agency for International Development, but these funds would run out by the end of 2018, with little chance of another round.

TraumaLink had proven that they could deliver emergency services and save lives, but could Jon and his partners figure out how to become financially sustainable so that they could continue to support and expand their services within Bangladesh and possibly beyond?

2018. “Social Determinants of Health: cases offered by the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research”.Abstract

This case study development project focuses on the Healthy People 2020 Social Determinants of Health Topic Area, and a new perspective calling for an expansion of public health practice to emphasize cross-sectoral, environmental, policy, and systems-level actions that directly affect the social determinants of health and advance health equity.  

These goal of the case studies is to teach health professions students to:

  • Identify social factors that impact the health of their patients and communities.
  • Include community-based and other social services and programs in the care of their patients.
  • Describe how the choices and civic/community engagement of health professionals can impact the health of patients and of populations. 
  • Discuss the Healthy People 2020 Social Determinants of Health Framework and Topic Area. 

Each case study includes a quiz or other form of student assessment, and a facilitator guide for instructors. The materials for faculty facilitators are housed in the APTR Publications Library and require faculty credentials to download.

2018. “Tackling Youth Substance Abuse on Staten Island: A Collective Impact Project”.Abstract

This case focuses on the challenges of keeping a collective impact program—the Tackling Youth Substance Abuse (TYSA) program on Staten Island—focused and effective over time, a problem faced by many collaborative community-based efforts. The TYSA program was founded in 2012 as a cross-sector collaborative response to the alarming rates of substance abuse on Staten Island, using a collective impact framework.

In the four years since its founding, TYSA had accomplished a great deal. But by October 2016, when the case opens, many of the original members of TYSA’s steering committee—most of whom had been high-level decision-makers in their organizations—were delegating their spots to mid-level staff who were not empowered to make organizational decisions. In addition, TYSA’s early successes against prescription drug abuse were increasingly overshadowed by a growing opioid problem on the Island and by a continuing culture of alcohol abuse by underage teens. A subtler challenge was that, in the Staten Island community, TYSA was over-identified with Adrienne Abbate, TYSA’s Project Director, herself; how could TYSA shift the community’s perception to demonstrate the program’s value beyond its leader?

Project Director Adrienne Abbate decided to pull TYSA’s executive leadership and staff together to discuss strategies to reinvigorate the program and to sustain the momentum they had fought so hard to create.

2017. “Sugary Drink Legislation in Massachusetts”.Abstract
In the fall of 2016, with the January 2017 deadline to file bills fast approaching, State Senator Jason Lewis was contemplating the details of a sugary drink legislative proposal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Senator Lewis had a particular interest in legislative efforts to contain healthcare costs and prevent chronic disease through prevention and wellness approaches. He was particularly concerned about the rising levels of sugary drink consumption and associated conditions of obesity, diabetes, and dental caries, considering such drinks “a uniquely toxic food.” As an experienced legislator he knew he was facing a tough battle and wanted to take an approach that would give the bill the best chance of succeeding. Senator Lewis explained, “Massachusetts should be leading the legislative effort to reduce sugary drink consumption in the Northeast. Significant opposition from the beverage industry is expected, but we have a real chance of making progress at the local and state levels.”
2017. “Coloring the Narrative: How to Use Storytelling to Create Social Change in Skin Tone Ideals”.Abstract
Many millions of people around the world experience the pervasive, and often painful, societal messages of colorism, where lighter skin tones are asserted to be more attractive and to reflect greater affluence, power, education, and social status. The root of colorism lies in the unresolved racist legacy of colonialism, whereas the modern-day continuance is fueled in part by relentless advertising from the multi-billion dollar skin-lightening products industry.  Even in places where the destructive effects of colorism are fairly well understood, far less is known about the problem of skin-lightening (really, it’s “skin bleaching”) creams and lotions, and the health risks that consumers – the vast majority of whom are women and girls — assume with these products and their dangerous chemical contents. In this teaching case, the protagonists are two women who have recently immigrated to the United States from Nigeria and Thailand, both with a life-time of experience with these products like many of the women of their home countries. As the story unfolds, they struggle along with the rest of the cast of characters in the case story, coping with the push and pull of community norms vs. commercial influences and the challenge of promoting community health in the face of many societal and corporate obstacles. How can the deeply ingrained messages of colorism be effectively confronted and transformed to advance social change without alienating the community members we may most want to reach?
Teaching notes are available to faculty only. Harvard faculty, download the PIN-protected teaching note here; faculty from outside Harvard, please email to request it. Visit the STRIPED website for more information.
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