Graduate Certificate in Healthy Cities

Current U-M students:  Admissions are accepted on a rolling basis. For a decision by the Fall term, students must apply by March 1, and for admissions in Winter, by December 1. Note that admissions decisions will not be made until final grades are recorded from at least one term of study at UM.


Today, for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lives in cities. These cities are places of tremendous economic, political, and cultural development, yet they are also spaces of unprecedented public health crises. In Europe and North America, rising rates of cancer, obesity, asthma, and other chronic health concerns are pushing public health workers, policy makers, and city planners to reexamine the relationship between urban space and public health. Similarly, in Asian, African, and South American contexts, the explosive growth of mega-cities has created unparalleled risks from infectious disease, contaminated water, inadequate food, substandard housing, toxic exposure, and natural disaster. These profound humanitarian concerns – and their potentially dire economic and political consequences – are transforming urban health and health equity into key factors driving social activism and policymaking worldwide.

The Certificate in Healthy Cities provides University of Michigan graduate students with a mechanism to study the interdisciplinary relationships linking policy making, health science, and spatial planning in a systematic, focused manner. Although several degree programs at the university offer courses related to cities and public health themes, no single program contains the full breadth of knowledge and skillsets students will need to meet the future health challenges of global urbanism. The certificate program in Healthy Cities offers students a roadmap for integrating discussions of the social, physical, and political determinants of urban public health.

The overall goals of the Healthy Cities certificate are as follows:

  • Enhance the University of Michigan’s capabilities and reputation for training graduate students to become leaders on healthy cities topics.
  • Educate students about the socioeconomic functioning of neighborhoods, infrastructure, and settlement patterns, as well as the functional interrelationships between the physical form of built environments and the health and wellness of urban inhabitants.
  • Enable students to apply mixed-methods public health tools of design, implementation, and evaluation of urban contexts.
  • Prepare students to use many public policy levers to systematically effect change, including organizing stakeholders, developing agendas, and mobilizing resources relevant to a range of urban health topics.

The Certificate includes five course requirements, for a total of 13 credits.

/ Why Enroll in the Healthy Cities Certificate?

Collaboration and effective communication among disciplines are key in creating cities that promote public health. The Graduate Certificate in Healthy Cities provides University of Michigan graduate students the language, skills, and competencies needed to engage in cross-disciplinary work to promote human health in urban contexts.

Students in the Healthy Cities certificate program come from diverse backgrounds and academic disciplines. This diversity adds richness and brings new perspectives to class discussions. Below are testimonials from previous Healthy Cities students about their experiences in the program and the value that the certificate added to their learning here at Michigan.

/ People

The following faculty conduct teaching and research related to urban informatics and are participants in the Certificate Program.

Kimberley Kinder
Associate Professor of Urban Planning, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

Jon Zelner
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health

Paula Lantz
Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Ford School of Public Policy

Roshanak Mehdipanah
Assistant Professor of Health Behavior & Health Education, School of Public Health

Joy Knoblauch
Assistant Professor of Architecture, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

/ Student Experiences

I’m interested in housing policy and this program has given me the perspective and tools to talk about affordable, adequate, and stable housing in a broader way. For example, being able to make arguments about housing through a public health lens, not just values-based arguments, is a really effective skill I’ve developed through my Healthy Cities certificate coursework.

Josh Childs

M.P.P./M.U.R.P. ‘20

I acquired a lot of new perspectives to think about academic research, especially interdisciplinary study,  and specific health and environmental topics through our guest speakers. By talking with them, I also learned something beyond the academic topics like how they pave their way to their career and how they make different choices.

Meixin Yuan

M.U.R.P. ‘20

Healthy Cities Certificate allowed me to learn about health holistically. It is too often that we get specialized in our own industry and we could not get out of the silo. The course encourages cross discipline learning, which provided me with various opportunities for different modes of learning. The network of faculty for this certificate is very helpful and supportive; Professor Lantz from Policy School was particularly helpful as she knew that I did not have a Public Policy background, and also introduced me to some other resources within the Public Policy school that helps international students in writing professionally in English. I am sure if it were not for the certificate, I would not have these exposures.

Judy Chu

M.Arch ‘19

I would recommend this certificate program for any student interested in public policy, urban planning, engineering, medicine, or real estate development. I am confident that I will use the knowledge I gained from my completion of the Healthy Cities in my professional career as a multimodal transportation planner focusing on bikeability and walkability of cities.

Megan Rigney

M.U.R.P./M.P.H. ‘20

The Healthy Cities Certificate gave me the opportunity to learn about the ways in which I can utilize my knowledge of the social determinants of health to impact the health of populations living in urban areas. Without this certificate, I wouldn’t have such a strong knowledge base about the historical context in which I will be working and I would not have such a broad range of skills in public policy and urban planning. Because of this certificate, I am confident in my ability to work in the field of economic development and advocate for affordable housing.

Brianne Brenneman

M.P.H. ‘19

/ Student Work

Because of our diverse backgrounds and interests, students in the Healthy Cities certificate produce interesting work on a wide variety of topics. Below are titles from selected papers that current Healthy Cities students have produced. As this list highlights, the certificate’s coursework is flexible enough to encourage students to write about their topical interests through the lens of urban health.

  • Cross-Disciplinary Urban Health Collaboration Guidebook
  • Social Capital: How to Create a Sense of Belonging
  • “Complete Streets Policy Proposal for Genesee County Michigan”
  • “Mitigating the Experience of Homelessness—Tiny Homes and Zoning Policies for a More Equitable Denver”
  • “Gentrification Disguised as Urban Revitalization”
  • “Nudging for a Healthier Community—Hosting Marathon and Community Engagement”
  • “PRO-TENT—A Design Solution for Heatwave—Civic Infrastructure Design Concept Logbook”
  • “A Policy History of Compulsory Vaccination Programs in the United States”

/ Contact

Direct inquiries about the application process or requirements to:

Graduate Certificate in Healthy Cities Admissions
2000 Bonisteel Blvd
Room 2330/2332, Art & Architecture Bldg.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Direct inquiries about the Rackham Graduate School to:

Rackham Graduate School Admissions
The University of Michigan
915 E. Washington St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Direct inquiries about how your background and goals would fit this program to:

Associate Professor Kimberley Kinder
Faculty Director of the Graduate Certificate in Healthy Cities
Phone: 734-615-7252

/ Requirements

The certificate requires students to complete a minimum of 13 credits of coursework. (See the Healthy Cities Certificate Requirements Checklist for more information.)

Core course requirements (9 credits)

Nine credits of core coursework introduce students to key knowledge from the School of Public Health, the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and the Ford School of Public Policy. This interdisciplinary curriculum creates opportunities for students interested in urban health topics to learn equally from all three disciplines. Course selections provide students with the foundational knowledge needed to engage in healthy cities initiatives from the perspectives of urban space, public health, and public policy. This collaborative atmosphere also educates students in the common terminologies, methodologies, and partnerships necessary to address pressing urban health issues of global concern.

  1. Healthy Cities from a Public Health Perspective (3 credits required). These courses examine the social determinants of urban health and describe the history and role of public health professionals in promoting healthful cities and neighborhoods. Pre-approved courses include:
    • Preferred option: HBEHED 645: Urban Health (formerly HBEHED 710.02)
    • Also acceptable: EPID 684: Theory and methods of spatial epidemiology; EPID 592 Introduction to spatial epidemiology and GIS for public health; EHS 500: Principles of Environmental Health Sciences 
  2. Healthy Cities from a Planning and Design Perspective (3 credits required). These courses highlight the functional interrelationship between the physical form of built environments and the health and wellness of urban inhabitants. Pre-approved courses include:
    • Preferred option: URP 552: Healthy Cities Planning and Design
    • Also acceptable: ARCH 509: Health by Design 
  3. Healthy Cities from a Public Policy Perspective (3 credits required). These courses provide students with the knowledge to examine and create innovative policy solutions to pressing and complex urban public health concerns. Pre-approved courses include:
    • Preferred option: PUBPOL 750: Public Policy Approaches to Social Disparities in Health
    • Also acceptable: HMP 615: Introduction to Public Health Policy, HMP 619: Health and the Public Policy Process

Specialized coursework requirements (3 credits)

Three credits of specialized elective coursework to be completed in a program of the student’s choosing. The specialized coursework experience allows students to explore this triad of knowledge from a variety of perspectives including, for instance, health issues in global mega-cities, urban health equity and social justice, community development and neighborhood health, or urban ecology and public health. Pre-approved courses include:

  • School of Public Health
    • EHS 570: Water Quality Management
    • EHS 601: Exposure Science and Health
    • EPID 514: Social Epidemiology*
    • EPID 608: Environmental Epidemiology
    • EPID 617: Social and Economic Determinants of Population Health
    • EPID 666: Health and Socioeconomic Development**
    • EPID 674: Data Analysis for Environmental Epidemiology
    • HBEHED 640: Community Organization for Health Education
    • HBEHED 690: Environmental Health Promotion
    • HMP 611: Population Health Informatics
    • HMP 617: US Food Policy and Public Health
    • HMP 626: Race, Ethnicity, Culture and Policy
    • NUTR 555: Foundations of Sustainable Food Systems
    • NUTR 642: Community Nutrition
  • Taubman College
    • URP 527: Foundations of Sustainable Food Systems
    • URP 528: Food Systems Planning (offered some years)
    • URP 573: Infrastructure Planning in the US and Developing Countries (offered some years)
    • ARCH 509: Healthy Building (offered some years)
    • ARCH 603 / 824: Architecture and Psychology
    • ARCH 609: Disability studies
  • Ford School
    • PUBPOL 626: History and Future of Detroit
    • PUBPOL 650: Intro to Science and Technology Policy Analysis
    • PUBPOL 677: Immigration Policy
    • PUBPOL 692: Thinking about Crime**
    • PUBPOL 736: Poverty & Inequality
    • PUBPOL 746: Social Welfare Policy
    • PUBPOL 750.001: Financial Technology
    • PUBPOL 750.306: Smart Cities and the Future of Mobility
    • PUBPOL 763: Global Issues: Drugs, Crime and Terrorism

* Has prerequisites
** Offered some years

Students may also propose other topics and courses to fulfill the elective certificate requirement with adequate justification contingent on written approval from the certificate program director. Only graduate-level courses may be used to meet certificate requirements. Core courses must be met through the School of Public Health, Taubman College, and the Ford School. Special elective courses may be offered either in those three schools or in departments outside those schools, for instance, in Sociology, Social Work, Natural Resources and Environment, and so on.

Integrative coursework requirement (1 credit)

One credit from participation in URP 556/HBEHED 608: Integrative Seminar on Healthy Cities. The integrative Healthy Cities seminar pulls public health, built environment, and public policy perspectives together into a single classroom. The seminar establishes an inclusive community among students and faculty. It provides a venue where the cohort of interdisciplinary students can explore cross-cutting themes and share ideas among all certificate participants.

Counting credits

With careful planning, many students already enrolled in rigorous graduate-level programs can complete the certificate training without requiring an additional semester of enrollment. To ensure all certificate curriculum requirements are met, students are expected to complete and review the Healthy Cities Certificate Requirements Checklist with Taubman College Student Affairs.

Rackham rules govern the double counting of credits. At the current time, Rackham policies state the following:

  • Not more than one-sixth of the credits required for a master’s degree may be double-counted with a certificate.
  • Not more than half of the credits necessary for a certificate that requires 10 or more credits of coursework may be double-counted with a master’s degree.

This means, for instance, that for any student enrolled in a masters program requiring 36 or more credit hours (as is the case in Taubman, Public Health, and the Ford School), students are allowed to double-count six credit hours toward both their masters degree and the proposed certificate. Students cannot double-count credits with any other certificate program.

The student must have a minimum cumulative grade point average of B (3.0 on a 4.0 point scale) in courses for the certificate program to receive the certificate degree.  Only courses eligible for Rackham credit may be used to meet certificate requirements. All coursework must be completed on the Ann Arbor campus. No transfer credits may apply.

Additional rules apply, and policies are continuously changing. Click here for authoritative and up-to-date information.

Completion requirements

When ready to graduate, students should apply to graduate within Wolverine Access and meet with Taubman College Student Affairs to complete the Dual/Joint Election Form. 

Course information websites

School of Public Health
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Ford School of Public Policy