Courses Details

HBEHED823: Structural Influences on Health and Social Behavior

  • Graduate level
  • Fall term(s)
  • 3 Credit Hour(s)
  • Instructor(s): Geronimus, Arline T
  • Prerequisites: permission of instructor
  • Description: This doctoral seminar will draw on the public health and biomedical literature and also on constructs and literature from sociology, psychology, history, anthropology and demography to demonstrate how multi-disiciplinary theories and findings can be integrated to suggest a social-structural context for current public health problems. This structural understanding is designed to help HBHE doctoral students to reach candidacy with the ability to recognize the social patterning of health problems, and to discuss analytically the social structural influences, opportunities, and constraints affecting individual and social behavior, and, thereby, to develop research hypotheses and interventions or policies that take these into account. The course stresses the development of critical thinking skills, helps students recognize the social patterning of health problems, the historical influences on current health inequalities, and the ways that individual health knowledge and behavior can be reflexive, socially situated, and embedded within larger social, cultural, and historical contexts. The course also considers ways that structural forces may work through material, social psychological, and ultimately biological mechanisms to exert an impact on morbidity and mortality.
  • Course Goals: The goal of this course is to (1) ensure that all HBHE doctoral students are familiar with a structural perspective on health and social behavior; (2) to provide an in-depth example of how one would complete a structural analysis of a health problem; (3) to prepare students to address questions in the HBHE prelim that will call on them to draw on understanding of structural perspectives, including enhancing their conceptual models with structural elements; and (4) to provide students an opportunity to elaborate a detailed structural perspective on a public health problem of interest to them.
  • Competencies: Students will gain competency in: (1) critiquing existing public health literature from a structural perspective; (2) drawing on interdisciplinary literature to develop conceptual models that incorporate structural dimensions; (3) developing research hypotheses to test theories informed by a structural perspective; (4) developing research designs to test such hypotheses, using mixed-methods as appropriate; (5) interpreting study findings in light of structural understandings; (6) presenting research ideas that elaborate a structural perspective; and (7) employing structural perspectives in understanding why some interventions and policies are unsuccessful either in being implemented or in ameliorating specific public heath problems, and what are likely to be more promising approaches. In addition to providing skills for students who are interested in focusing on structural analysis in their future work, the course should provide students more interested in other HBHE approaches a basic fluency in structural analysis that will enable fruitful collaborations between doctoral students emphasizing different approaches. Students will also gain experience in presenting and defending their research and ideas in a seminar setting.
  • Learning Objectives: By the end of the term, students should be able to : (1) explain what a structural perspective is and how a structural analysis differs from simply entering sociodemographic or economic variables into statistical models; (2) understand the importance of history, culture, pervasive ideology, social stratification, and institutionalization to current public health problems and proposed solutions; (3) be attuned to the social patterning of public health problems and their implications; (4) understand how structural dimensions of public health problems influence individual and social behavior;
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