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

In February 2015, technical staff reviewed the results from a jointly conducted study on malaria control. This study had major implications for malaria in Zambia—and elsewhere. The preliminary analysis strongly suggested that the study’s Mass Drug Administration (MDA) strategy was reducing the incidence of malaria disease. In addition, MDA seemed to be driving down the infection reservoir among asymptomatic people in the study area of the Southern Province of Zambia. Further analysis with mathematical models indicated that if the intervention was sustained so current trends continued, then the MDA strategy would make it possible to eliminate malaria in the Southern Province.

If malaria could be eliminated in one region of Zambia, that would provide new evidence and motivation to work towards elimination throughout the country, an ambitious goal. But it would not be easy to move from conducting one technical study in a single region to creating a national strategy for malaria elimination. The scientists realized that their new data and analyses—of malaria infections, mosquito populations, and community health worker activities—were not enough. A national malaria elimination effort would require mobilizing many partners, national and local leaders, and community members, and convincing them to get on board with this new approach.


Also available free of charge through Harvard Business Publishing.
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.

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