Community Oriented Primary Care - Certificate

Program Contacts

Program Director

Freya Spielberg

Mission Statement



The Community Oriented Primary Care program offers a Graduate Certificate program designed to train health professionals and public health practitioners to implement and evaluate evidence-based interventions to improve community health, clinical care outcomes, and patient experience, while lowering health care costs and decreasing  health disparities.

What is COPC

Community C  Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC) provides the bridge between clinical medicine and public health, in which the community is the focal point in the delivery of health care. It provides a conceptual and methodological framework to rationalize, organize, and adapt available resources to the delivery of health services. The methods are essential to the organized delivery of health care in community based practices, organizations engaged in managed care, and responsive governmental health systems.

The basic concepts of COPC were initially implemented in South Africa during the early 1940's by Sidney and Emily Kark with the creation of community health centers. These centers promoted a reorientation of health services at the community level through a unique linkage between individual clinical care and public health. They served as a laboratory for teaching and training health professionals.

Since that time, COPC has been taught and practiced in a number of settings around the world. Significantly it has been an important element in the Community Health Center movement, the Indian Health Service, and a number of urban health departments in the United States as well as a variety of public health and primary care systems around the world. Developments in computer-based information management, mobile health, geographic information systems, and qualitative information gathering techniques have proved important assets to COPC practice.

The Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC) program trains future health care innovators in the methods of COPC which provide skills to conceptualize, implement, evaluate and disseminate interventions that bridge public health and clinical medicine.

COPC begins by teaching practitioners methods to fully understand the needs of communities, health care providers, and policy makers.  Concurrently skills are developed to read and interpret literature to inform future intervention design. With this in-depth understanding, COPC practitioners learn to work with stakeholders to prioritize interventions that will have a high likelihood of improving health outcomes and patient experience while lowering health care costs and decreasing health disparities.  COPC practitioners learn to conduct in depth assessments which help to shape intervention design and serve as baseline data to evaluate intervention impact.  Intervention skills are acquired that include implementation of social marketing campaigns, advocacy campaigns, mobile health interventions, individual brief behavioral interventions, peer interventions, quality improvement projects using data from electronic health records, structural interventions to impact health behaviors, and health system innovations to improve the ability of community based organizations to educate, test, and link to care patients with preventable and chronic health conditions.   Evaluation skills are acquired that include analysis of qualitative, quantitative and cost data.  Dissemination skills are acquired to take best practices to scale. Through experiential learning COPC practitioners will develop the skills necessary to lead health improvement projects in community, health department, academic and clinical settings.


The following are goals of this educational program:

  • Provide the knowledge and skills necessary to implement a COPC program
  • Provide an analytical framework for evaluating community-based interventions using the principles and methods of COPC as a reference.
  • Provide opportunities for COPC practice, especially within vulnerable communities

Program Requirements

  1. Graduate Credit Requirement.  18 graduate credits are required.
  2. Graduate Credit Requirement for students enrolled concurrently in a GWSPH Degree Program.  12 credits are required.
  3. The Program Director/Advisor must pre-approve all course selections and course sequencing by developing a “program of study” prior to the student’s initial registration.  Graduate Certificate students meet with their advisor each semester before registration. All changes in this program of study must be pre-approved by the Program Director/Advisor.
  4. Course Requirements.  Since most graduate certificate students are currently enrolled in an MPH program or have previously earned a graduate degree, most course credits will be selected from the program-specific course list.  Under no circumstances may a certificate student enroll in fewer than 9 credits of program-specific courses.
  5. Grade Point Requirement.  A 3.0 (B average) overall grade point average or better is required.
  6. Time Limit Requirement. The certificate must be completed within two years.
  7. Transfer Credit Policy.   The Program Director/Advisor may approve up to 4 graduate credits that have not been applied to a previous graduate degree to be transferred to the graduate certificate.  (Exceptions: GWSPH master's students and alumni may transfer up to 6 credits from master's degree to the Graduate Certificate.)  The course(s) must be relevant to the graduate certificate.  Credits must have been earned from an accredited institution in the last 3 years with a grade point of 3.0 or better.


Please see MPH, COPC program guide.

Federal Disclosure Requirements

Past Program Guides

This is the current program guide for this program. Students should follow the course requirements from the year in which they entered the program.

Past Guides:

Community Oriented Primary Care Certificate Program Guide 2013-2014

Guides that are not available online can be acquired from the Academic Affairs Program Coordinator in the Dean's Office.