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

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.
2017. “Partnering to Eliminate Malaria in Zambia”.Abstract

In February 2015, several technical staff sat together to review the results from a jointly conducted study on malaria control. Some of the scientists were from Zambia’s National Malaria Control Centre (NMCC) and others worked at a non-governmental organization, PATH, through its Malaria Control and Elimination Partnership in Africa (MACEPA). Everyone at the table agreed: these data were remarkable. The more the scientists discussed the results, the more excited they became. This study had major implications for malaria in Zambia—and elsewhere.


2017. “Humana’s Bold Goal: 20 Percent Healthier by 2020”.Abstract

Beginning in 2013, Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, pursued a major organizational transformation, from being an insurance company focused on paying claims to becoming a health and well-being company focused on improving the health of its beneficiaries. The company set a “Bold Goal” of improving the health of the communities it served by 20% by 2020. To achieve this new goal, Humana undertook a multiyear redesign and investment of people, processes, and products in order to gain the trust of consumers and providers, and to partner with communities to improve health. The case focuses on community initiatives, where Humana was developing its new role as “convener of conversations,” providing leadership infrastructure and partial funding to spark community planning with a wide range of stakeholders and to design and monitor interventions that were tailored to local health improvement. At the same time, Humana remained a publicly-held corporation accountable to its shareholders for revenue growth and financial return. The case protagonist, Andrew Renda, MD, MPH, Director, Bold Goal Measurement, must design and implement a business plan, including leading and lagging performance metrics, that would measure Humana’s progress toward its Bold Goal in ways that supported continued investment in community health improvement in Humana’s local markets, while satisfying its traditional business constituents.

2016. “Medical Tourism at Mountain Health Insurance Company”.Abstract

In July 2016, Jennifer Brown, a graduate student at Southwest State School of Public Health, had been asked to staff an Ethics Advisory Group (EAG) meeting at Mountain Health Insurance Company, a large, regional nonprofit health insurance company where she was employed as a summer intern. The mission of Mountain Health was “to improve the health of the people we serve and the health of society.” Jennifer had been working with the ethics program director, Robert Jones, to review and update the program’s ethical guidelines to reflect emerging ethical challenges in the financing and delivery of health care. This meeting was the first time that Jennifer had been given the responsibility of identifying the ethical issues that EAG should consider and what values should be applied in determining how Mountain Health should address them.

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.

2016. “Kids in Need of Defense (KIND): The Challenges of Child Migration to the United States”.Abstract

Since the flood of child migrants from Central America burst upon the southern United States in the summer of 2014—a vast rise in arrivals dubbed “the Surge”—Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) had been facing overwhelming demand for its legal services. Wendy Young, KIND’s president, explained that the organization’s primary mission was to ensure that no child appears alone in immigration court, but KIND also wanted to provide leadership, research, and advocacy to protect these “children on the move” from laws and practices that threatened their fundamental human rights. Ms. Young was facing a critical juncture in the organizational life of KIND: where and how should it focus its resources for greatest effectiveness in protecting child migrants? What limits must the organization set on its activities when facing an almost unlimited need for legal, social, health, and educational support of these vulnerable children?

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