This course introduces undergraduates to the complex interplay of social factors that affect population health in any society. It focuses on the social determinants and distribution of health and disease, the organization and financing of the health care system, and the relationship of one to the other.
The first part of the class reviews divergent perspectives for thinking about health and society. We begin by comparing clinical and public health perspectives on health and illness, reviewing alternative definitions of these concepts, tools for their assessment, and the contributions of social and economic theory, as well as health services research, to the study of health and society. For example, we will we examine key studies on health and health care among geographic areas and socio-economic groups in society. We will also consider how these perspectives were influenced by the evolution of public health, medicine and the health care system over the course of the past century.
The second part of the class draws on these perspectives to study the health care system in the United States, how it compares to that of other nations and how population aging, urbanization and globalization are raising new challenges for health and society, worldwide. We begin by studying alternative approaches to health care financing and organization and analyzing the U.S. health care system in this context. Next, we consider how increases in human longevity and population aging will affect the organization and financing of health and social services. Also, we consider two emerging areas of study related to health and society: "urban health" and "global health." Finally, we consider issues of health care reform in the United States in light of the experience of other wealthy nations abroad, which have developed systems of universal health care coverage.