Harold Cox

Harold D Cox, MSSW

Professor of the Practice, Community Health Sciences - Boston University School of Public Health


Harold Cox is Professor of the Practice in Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health. Trained as a social worker, he has extensive experience in direct services, administration, and advocacy in a variety of public health care settings, including developmental disabilities, HIV/AIDS, and governmental public health.

Professor Cox has taught classes in leadership and management, managed the MPH practicum program, and co-directed the dual MPH/MSW program. He served for 14 years as the Associate Dean of Practice and was the first director of the Activist Lab, which is a catalyst for engaging faculty, staff, and students in local community affairs. In Fall 2014, he will teach a new course entitled “Homelessness: Stories, Solutions, Advocacy.”

Professor Cox has contributed to the training of thousands of public health professionals through his leadership of the Local Public Health Institute (LPHI), the New England Public Health Training Center (NEPHTC), and the School Health Institute of Education and Leadership Development (SHIELD). His work on regionalization and cross-jurisdictional sharing has helped to redesign the local governmental public health system in Massachusetts and resulted in major legislative funding to support municipal public health departments.

Professor Cox is a board member of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund, an appointee to the Massachusetts Public Health Council. He is the past president of Massachusetts Public Health Association, past president of the Multicultural AIDS Coalition, past chair of the Boston AIDS Planning Council, a past board member of the Boston Public Health Commission, and former member of DentaQuest’s Oral Health Foundation. He has sat on many other advisory committees, including the Massachusetts Special Commission on Local and Regional Public Health for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Cross Jurisdictional Sharing Advisory Committee.

Professor Cox received the American Public Health Association's Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Local Public Health, the Rebecca Lee Award for outstanding commitment to public health from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the Hilliard award for outstanding achievement from Massachusetts Health Officers Association. He also received the Paul Revere Award for outstanding public health service from the Massachusetts Public Health Association, and an official proclamation from Mayor Marty Walsh designating April 12 as Harold Cox Day in Boston.

Prior to joining Boston University, Harold Cox served for 10 years as chief public health officer for the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was responsible for managing all aspects of the city's health department. During his tenure, Professor Cox led the process to make Cambridge a tobacco-free city. He helped to organize Clean Air Works, a regional initiative including 19 Massachusetts towns to promote smoke-free work environments. This initiative was instrumental in moving Massachusetts to become the 3rd smoke-free state in the country. He worked with the Cambridge Kid’s Council and Agenda for Children to develop programs addressing literacy and out-of-school-time activities. He developed a regional public health consortium to coordinate emergency preparedness and disaster response. He also started the Cambridge Advanced Practice Center for Emergency Preparedness, which developed policies and program implementation for 27 communities surrounding Cambridge. Before working in Cambridge, Professor Cox worked as Director of Client Services for the AIDS Action Committee and in various capacities serving individuals and families with intellectual deficits.

Professor Cox volunteers at the Boston Men’s Homeless Shelter and the St. Mary’s food pantry. He engages in narrative storytelling and has been featured on many platforms, including The Moth, PBS’ Stories from the Stage, Fugitive Stories, RISK, and Story Collider.


  • University of Texas at Austin, MSSW Field of Study: Social Work
  • University of North Texas, BA Field of Study: Psychology


Classes Taught

  • SPHPH718
  • SPHPH859


  • Published on 9/21/2023

    Cox, H. Lessons From the Kitchen. SPH This Week. 2023.

    Read At: Custom
  • Published on 10/28/2020

    Cox, H. The View From My Window. SPH This Week. 2020.

    Read At: Custom
  • Published on 5/29/2020

    Cox, H. Moving On: What I've Learned. SPH This Week. 2020.

    Read At: Custom
  • Published on 12/1/2017

    Browne T, Keefe RH, Ruth BJ, Cox H, Maramaldi P, Rishel C, Rountree M, Zlotnik J, Marshall J. Advancing Social Work Education for Health Impact. Am J Public Health. 2017 Dec; 107(S3):S229-S235. PMID: 29236540.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 9/29/2017

    Cox, H. What It Means To Be An Activist. SPH This Week. 2017.

    Read At: Custom
  • Published on 1/1/2013

    Stoto, Michael A.; Cox, Harold; Higdon, Melissa; Dunnell, Kerry; and Goldmann, Donald . Using Learning Collaboratives to Improve Public Health Emergency Preparedness Systems. Frontiers in Public Health Services and Systems Research. 2013; 2(3).

  • Published on 11/1/2012

    Hyde J, Arsenault L, Waggett J, Mills B, Cox H, MacVarish K, Fried L. Structural and organizational characteristics associated with performance of essential public health services in small jurisdictions: findings from a statewide study in Massachusetts. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2012 Nov; 18(6):585-94. PMID: 23023284.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 1/1/2012

    Hyde, J, Cox, H, MacVarish K, Wilkinson G. Massachusetts Public Health Practice-Based Research Network: Generating evidence to improve the equitable delivery of public health services across the Commonwealth. Leadership in Public Health. 2012; (Winter).

  • Published on 1/1/2008

    Koh, Howard; Shei, Amie; Judge, Christine; Elqura, Loris; Cox, Harold; Nick, Gilbert; Burstein,Jonathon; Condon, Suzanne. Emergency Preparedness as a Catalyst for Regionalizing Local Public Health: The Massachusetts Case Study. Public Health Reports. 2008; 123(July).

  • Published on 1/1/1988

    Wells. A.I., Agosta, J.M. Berliner, S., Cox, H, Bedford, S. . Supporting Pennsylvania Families: Strengthening the Pennsylvania family support system. Cambridge, MA Human Services Research Institute. 1988.

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