Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health and Health Systems

The program information below is valid for the winter 2021 term (January 1, 2021 - April 30, 2021).

The Graduate Studies Academic Calendar is updated 3 times per year, at the start of each academic term (January 1, May 1, September 1). Graduate Studies Academic Calendars from previous terms can be found in the archives.

Graduate research fields

  • Aging and Health
  • Epidemiology and Biostatistics
  • Global Health
  • Health and Environment
  • Health Evaluation
  • Health Informatics
  • Work and Health
  • Admit term(s) 
    • Fall
  • Delivery mode 
    • On-campus
  • Program type 
    • Doctoral
    • Research
  • Registration option(s) 
    • Full-time
    • Part-time
  • Study option(s) 
  • Minimum requirements 
    • Students applying to the program should have completed a Master’s degree (or its equivalent) with content related to ongoing faculty research in areas such as health, public health, health systems, gerontology, health informatics, global health, occupational health, and evaluation.
    • A minimum 75% average in Master's level coursework.
    • Completion of a Master's degree and evidence of prior research achievements (e.g., Master’s thesis, first author peer-reviewed publication, adjudicated research report).
    • Before applying to the program, students are strongly advised to establish contact with potential supervisors.
    • Students may be allowed to transfer into the PhD program directly from the School of Public Health and Health Systems (SPHHS) Master’s programs. Such students must have completed all Master’s coursework requirements, have demonstrated a superior academic record, and have evidence of prior research achievements (e.g., adjudicated research report, significant documented contribution as a co-author to a peer-reviewed publication, first author peer-reviewed publication).
    • Students are sometimes accepted for direct admission to the PhD in the SPHHS program if they have an Honours Bachelor of Science degree or the equivalent and have exceptional academic and research performance, including evidence of prior research achievements (e.g., adjudicated research report, significant documented contribution as a co-author to a peer-reviewed publication, first author peer-reviewed publication). Directly admitted students will be required to complete 9 (required and elective) graduate courses, graduate milestones and a doctoral thesis.
  • Application materials 
    • Résumé/Curriculum vitae
    • Supplementary information form
      • Indicating reasons for pursuing graduate studies (e.g., discuss how a graduate degree maps onto your career plans) and outlining research interests.
    • Transcript(s)
    • Writing sample
      • Students must submit a copy of previous academic work, such as copies of preprints, reprints, or master's thesis, or other evidence of written scholarly work.
  • References 
    • Number of references:  3
    • Type of references: 

      academic

  • English language proficiency (ELP) (if applicable)

    Thesis option:

  • Graduate Academic Integrity Module (Graduate AIM)
  • Courses 
    • 9 one-term graduate courses beyond the Bachelor's degree, including at least 4 courses (2 required and 2 electives) beyond the Master's degree, is the normal minimum requirement.

    • Required courses (2)

    • 1 of the following required methods courses:

    • Elective courses (2)

      • 1 methods elective course at the 600-or 700-level, selected in consultation with the supervisor (may include courses outside the SPHHS), or courses offered by SPHHS, including additional courses from the required course list.

      • 1 additional elective, selected in consultation with the supervisor. Students without a background in public health and health systems, and focusing in research areas other than Health Informatics, should take HLTH 601 Lifespan Determinants of Health and Disease. Students focusing in Health Informatics may choose to take HLTH 611 The Health Care System or an equivalent course approved by the SPHHS Graduate Officer.

    • Plus other free electives as may be required

      • It is important to keep in mind that these are minimum requirements. Many students complete at least three courses within their area of research interest, which may require the addition of one or more extra courses to the minimum coursework requirement.

    • At a minimum, students must obtain an average of 75% or higher in aggregate on the courses presented in fulfilment of the degree requirements. Grades on all courses presented to fulfill the degree requirements must be 70% or higher. A grade below 70% in any course or failing to maintain an average of 75% will necessitate a review of the student's status by the School and may result in a student being required to complete additional coursework or being required to withdraw from the program. The School reserves the right to stipulate additional coursework if it is necessary for the student's preparation.
    • Students in the PhD in Public Health and Health Systems program may also wish to pursue one of the following Graduate Research Fields:

      1. Aging and Health
      2. Epidemiology and Biostatistics
      3. Global Health
      4. Health and Environment
      5. Health Evaluation
      6. Health Informatics
      7. Work and Health

    • A Graduate Research Field is a University credential that is recognized on the student’s transcript and is intended to reflect that a student has successfully completed research and a set of courses that together provide an in-depth study in the area of the Graduate Research Field. A student will only obtain the Graduate Research Field on their transcript if they have completed the requirements associated with the PhD degree and the requirements associated with the Graduate Research Field.

    • All PhD Graduate Research Fields in the SPHHS consist of a Comprehensive Examination, a PhD Thesis that is confirmed by the SPHHS to be in the chosen Graduate Research Field, and a set of 4 graduate (0.50 weight) level courses. This set of courses is comprised of a mix of required and elective courses. Required courses are those that are prescribed as part of the Graduate Research Field. Elective courses are those that are on a list of courses designated as electives for a given Graduate Research Field. 

    • Students who have completed the MSc in Public Health and Health Systems and obtained a Graduate Research Field can obtain the same or another Field or (by taking the applicable required/elective courses) as part of their PhD program.

    • For any of the Graduate Research Fields below, a directed studies course (HLTH 620 or HLTH 720) focused on the Graduate Research Field or an appropriate alternate course may replace a required or elective course, with the approval of the Associate Director, Research Graduate Program, School of Public Health and Health Systems.

    • The course requirements for the Graduate Research Fields are described below.

    1. Graduate Research Field in Aging and Health

    • Students must successfully complete 2 required courses and 2 elective courses. An assessment of whether or not the student’s thesis warrants the Aging and Health Graduate Research Field designation will be completed by the SPHHS.
      • Required courses:
        • HLTH 701 Interdisciplinary Seminar in Public Health and Health Systems
        • HLTH 750 Fundamentals of Aging, Health and Well Being (over two terms, parts A and B)
      • Elective courses:
        • Select 1 from the following list:
          • HLTH 704 Advanced Qualitative Methods for Health Research
          • HLTH 705 Advanced Statistical Methods for Analyzing Public Health and Health Systems Data
          • HLTH 706 Advanced Epidemiological Methods
        • Select 1 from the following list:
          • HLTH 626 Analysis and Management of Health Information in Aging Populations
          • HLTH 627 Advanced Dementia Care
          • HLTH 630 Advanced Geriatric Medicine and Healthcare
          • HLTH 642 Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Aging
          • HLTH 672 Epidemiological Methods in Aging Research

    2. Graduate Research Field in Epidemiology and Biostatistics

    • Students must successfully complete 3 required courses and 1 elective course. An assessment of whether or not the student’s thesis warrants the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Graduate Research Field designation will be completed by the SPHHS.
      • Required courses:
        • HLTH 701 Interdisciplinary Seminar in Public Health and Health Systems
        • HLTH 705 Advanced Statistical Methods for Analyzing Public Health and Health Systems Data
        • HLTH 706 Advanced Epidemiological Methods
      • Elective course:
        • Select 1 from the following list:
          • HLTH 634 Environmental Epidemiology for Public Health
          • HLTH 672 Epidemiological Methods in Aging Research

    3. Graduate Research Field in Global Health

    • Students must successfully complete 2 required courses and 2 elective courses. An assessment of whether or not the student’s thesis warrants the Global Health Graduate Research Field designation will be completed by the SPHHS.
      • Required courses:
        • HLTH 662 Global Health (or equivalent)
        • HLTH 701 Interdisciplinary Seminar in Public Health and Health Systems
      • Elective courses:
        • Select 1 from the following list:
          • HLTH 704 Advanced Qualitative Methods for Health Research
          • HLTH 705 Advanced Statistical Methods for Analyzing Public Health and Health Systems Data
          • HLTH 706 Advanced Epidemiological Methods
          • HLTH 719 Advanced Research Methods in Health Informatics
        • Select 1 from the following list (these courses are global-health focused in all examples and assignments): 
          • HLTH 632 Health Economics and Public Health
          • HLTH 654 Systems Thinking and Analysis in Health Program Planning and Evaluation

    4. Graduate Research Field in Health and Environment

    • Students must successfully complete 2 required courses and 2 elective courses. An assessment of whether or not the student’s thesis warrants the Health and Environment Graduate Research Field designation will be completed by the SPHHS.
      • Required courses:
        • HLTH 604 Public Health and the Environment (or equivalent)
        • HLTH 701 Interdisciplinary Seminar in Public Health and Health Systems
      • Elective courses:
        • Select 1 from the following list:
          • HLTH 704 Advanced Qualitative Methods for Health Research
          • HLTH 705 Advanced Statistical Methods for Analyzing Public Health and Health Systems Data
          • HLTH 706 Advanced Epidemiological Methods
        • Select 1 from the following list:
          • HLTH 623 Risk and Exposure Assessment in Public Health
          • HLTH 624 Environmental Toxicology in Public Health
          • HLTH 631 Public Health Surveillance
          • HLTH 634 Environmental Epidemiology for Public Health
          • HLTH 661 Geographic Information Systems and Public Health
          • HLTH 662 Global Health

    5. Graduate Research Field in Health Evaluation

    • Students must successfully complete 1 required course and 3 elective courses. An assessment of whether or not the student’s thesis warrants the Health Evaluation Graduate Research Field designation will be completed by the SPHHS.
      • Required course:
        • HLTH 701 Interdisciplinary Seminar in Public Health and Health Systems
      • Elective courses:
        • Select 1 from the following list:
          • HLTH 655 Health Measurement and Survey Methods
          • HLTH 704 Advanced Qualitative Methods for Health Research
          • HLTH 705 Advanced Statistical Methods for Analyzing Public Health and Health Systems Data
        • Select 1 or 2 from the following list:
          • HLTH 614 Foundations of Program Evaluation
          • HLTH 651 Theory and Applications in Program Evaluation
          • HLTH 653 Evaluation Practice and Management
          • HLTH 654 Systems Thinking and Analysis in Health Program Planning and Evaluation
        • Select 1 from the following list if only 1 course was selected above:
          • HLTH 603 Health Systems and Policy
          • HLTH 626 Analysis and Management of Health Information in Aging Populations
          • HLTH 639 Experiential Learning in Evaluation

    6. Graduate Research Field in Health Informatics

    • Students must successfully complete 2 required courses and 2 elective courses. An assessment of whether or not the student’s thesis warrants the Health Informatics Graduate Research Field designation will be completed by the SPHHS.
      • Required courses:
        • HLTH 701 Interdisciplinary Seminar in Public Health and Health Systems
        • HLTH 719 Advanced Research Methods in Health Informatics OR Equivalent
      • Elective courses:
        • Select 1 from the following list:
          • HLTH 615 Requirements Specification and Analysis in Health Systems
          • HLTH 616 Decision Making and Systems Thinking in Health Informatics
          • HLTH 626 Analysis and Management of Health Information in Aging Populations
          • HLTH 629 Information Visualization
          • HLTH 633 Digital Health
          • HLTH 637 Public Health Informatics
        • Select 1 from the following list:
          • COGSCI 600 Seminar in Cognitive Science
          • CS 634 Security and Privacy for Health Systems
          • CS 792 Data Structures and Standards in Health Informatics
          • CS 846 Advanced Topics in Software Engineering: Topic 30 Software Engineering for Big Data
          • SYDE 642 Cognitive Engineering Methods
          • SYDE 644 Human Factors Testing

    7. Graduate Research Field in Work and Health

    • Students must successfully complete 2 required courses and 2 elective courses. An assessment of whether or not the student’s thesis warrants the Work and Health Graduate Research Field designation will be completed by the SPHHS.
      • Required courses:
        • HLTH 701 Interdisciplinary Seminar in Public Health and Health Systems
        • HLTH 728 What is Fair? International Perspectives On Equity In Work and Health
      • Elective courses:
        • Select 1 from the following list:
          • HLTH 704 Advanced Qualitative Methods for Health Research
          • HLTH 705 Advanced Statistical Methods for Analyzing Public Health and Health Systems Data
          • HLTH 706 Advanced Epidemiological Methods
          • HLTH 719 Advanced Research Methods in Health Informatics
        • Select 1 from the following list:
          • HLTH 614 Foundations of Program Evaluation
          • HLTH 623 Risk and Exposure Assessment in Public Health
          • HLTH 639 Experiential Learning in Evaluation
          • HLTH 654 Systems Thinking and Analysis In Health Program Planning and Evaluation
          • HLTH 731 Approaches to Research in Work and Health
  • Link(s) to courses
  • Academic Integrity Workshop
  • PhD Comprehensive Examination
    • Students are required to meet the University-level PhD Comprehensive Examination minimum requirements outlined in the “Minimum requirements for the PhD degree” section of the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar (GSAC), with certain noted differences that are specific to the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Comprehensive Examination minimum requirements:
      • Comprehensive examination purpose: Consistent with University-level minimum requirements. Note: In the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, the novel research topic is tested through a separate thesis proposal process.
      • Timing: Consistent with University-level minimum requirements.
      • Committee: Consistent with University-level minimum requirements with the exception that in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, the composition of the comprehensive examining committee will be approved by the Associate Chair or Director, Graduate Studies for the student’s Department/School, as delegated by the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies. 
      • Who Chairs an examination: Consistent with University-level minimum requirements.
      • Format / Content: Consistent with University-level minimum requirements.
      • Academic integrity: Consistent with University-level minimum requirements.
    • In addition to the University-level and Faculty-level PhD Comprehensive Examination minimum requirements, students in the PhD in Public Health and Health Systems program must also note the following:
      • The purpose of the comprehensive examination is to test the breadth and depth of the candidate’s comprehension of the methodological and theoretical aspects of their field of study. The process is designed to enable candidates to acquire a solid grounding in their core area of public health research that will provide a foundation for undertaking dissertation research. The examination will also test the candidate’s ability to critically evaluate the literature and synthesize information from sources to identify knowledge gaps and recommend solutions.
      • The comprehensive examination consists of three written questions followed by an oral examination. The written questions must be completed within eight weeks from the start date and the oral defence should be completed within four weeks of submission of the written examination.
  • PhD Thesis
    • A PhD thesis on an approved topic is required, which is to be defended in an oral examination. The research is to be conducted under the supervision of the student's supervisor and the advisory committee. The PhD thesis advisory committee consists of at least three members, with the supervisor and at least one other committee member being faculty from within the School of Public Health and Health Systems. The proposal will be defended before the thesis committee; however, upon completion of the thesis, the final document will be defended before a five person Examination Board.