Purpose: As illustrated by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), epidemic models are powerful health policy tools critical for disease prevention and control, i.e. if they are fit for purpose. How do people ensure this is the case and where does health education fit in? Design/methodology/approach: This research takes a multidisciplinary approach combining qualitative secondary and primary data from a literature review, interviews and surveys. The former spans academic literature, grey literature and course curriculum, while the latter two involve discussions with various modeling stakeholders (educators, academics, students, modeling experts and policymakers) both within and outside the field of epidemiology. Findings: More established approaches (compartmental models) appear to be favored over emerging techniques, like agent-based models. This study delves into how formal and informal education opportunities may be driving this preference. Drawing from other fields, the authors consider how this can be addressed. Practical implications: This study offers concrete recommendations (course design routed in active learning pedagogies) as to how health education and, by extension, policy can be reimagined post-COVID to make better use of the full range of epidemic modeling methods available. Originality/value: There is a lack of research exploring how these methods are taught and how this instruction influences which methods are employed. To fill this gap, this research uniquely engages with modeling stakeholders and bridges disciplinary silos to build complimentary knowledge.