How can policy improve health care and system design, mental wellbeing, child development, elder care, veteran care and global health?

As our world faces health crises like never before, health policy is critical to people, communities and the economy. Through their research and courses, Sanford faculty provide in-depth understanding of economic, sociological and political forces that shape health care systems in the U.S. and other countries. Health policy directly affects who receives health care and how, and Sanford provides decision making tools for students and policy makers.


  • Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development
  • Duke Global Health Institute
  • Duke Law School
  • Duke School of Medicine
  • Duke School of Nursing
  • Fuqua School of Business
  • Margolis Center for Health Policy
  • Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Social Science Research Institute
  • Trinity College of Arts and Sciences


Our faculty have produced research and scholarship contribute to the knowledge base for evidence-driven policy around health. They have worked with community partners around North Carolina on health-related issues; designed a community-based program for caregivers of veterans; and provided a variety of evidence-based policy insights during the global pandemic.

Related programs/courses

Public Policy Studies major

PhD in Public Policy

Sample elective courses:

  • Climate Change Economics and Policy
  • International Environmental Policy
  • Collective Action
  • Sustainable Development
  • Environment & Development
  • Energy & Development
  • Global Environmental Health

Research Center


World Food Policy Center Director Kelly Brownell

Duke University’s World Food Policy Center (WFPC), located in the Sanford School of Public Policy, develops coordinated and inclusive food policy and practice. Our approach bridges key areas of the food system to improve human wellbeing, environmental health, and equity. We provide education to raise public awareness and understanding of food system issues to drive engagement with public policy. At the heart of this work, we learn from and connect unique voices—including people most affected by food system challenges.


Research Feature

The COVID-19 pandemic reveals long-standing gaps in the long-term care system: barriers to access, confusing layers of regulation and complex payment systems. Older adults re-entering communities from prison fall into many of these gaps, as they face stigma and access challenges beyond the general population, according to a new study by Nathan Boucher.

Read Boucher's report

Student Spotlight

Vulnerability to complications from COVID-19 for those with pre-existing conditions is nearly three times higher for adults in the bottom quartile in income, and 60% higher for those with a high school degree relative to those with a college degree, according to new research. PhD student Marwa AlFakhri is a co-author of the study showing how COVID-19 is magnifying health disparities.

Read the paper

Faculty Spotlight

Kate Bundorf (appointed January 2021) is research focuses on health policy and the economics of health care systems. She has studied public and private health insurance markets, the organization of health care providers, and consumer decision making in health care.

Key Faculty: Health Policy

Take a look at core members of our faculty who focus on policy related to health.

Core Faculty

Diversity Spotlight

Faculty member Nathan Boucher strives to show his students the broad spectrum of services and areas of concentration within the health care field and the importance of caring for the most vulnerable. “Our state and counties must focus on caring for the most vulnerable members of our community and the staff that risk their health every day to care for them.” Read his recent op-ed on COVID-19 and vulnerable populations, linked below.

Read Boucher's oped

Related Podcasts

Ways & Means

Sugar Fix

Leading Voices in Food

Progress Towards Zero Hunger

Featured Video

What's the Story Behind Soda Taxes?

Kelly Brownell is the Director of the World Food Policy Center

Health Policy News

Faculty in the News: Health Policy