Coordinators, Associate Professors LOIS BANTA and LUCIE SCHMIDT
Advisory Committee: Professors: BRAINERD, DARROW, D. GOLLIN, C. JOHNSON, SHANKS*. Associate Professors: BANTA, SCHMIDT, SHORE-SHEPPARD. Assistant Professors: GEHRING, HANE, KLINGENBERG, WATSON*. Adjunct Associate Professor: HONDERICH. Visiting Assistant Professors: GUTSCHOW, J. PEDRONI.
Public health seeks to understand, and also to protect and improve, health at the level of a community or population. Communities make decisions and allocate resources that, intentionally or not, fundamentally shape human life. For example, great reductions in sickness and early death have come from social interventions with relatively low financial cost, such as physically separating drinking water from sewage, or distributing aspirin, condoms, mosquito nets, vaccines or soap, or sharing new ideas about life's possibilities. The way a society is organized affects the way that social and scientific knowledge is distributed within it; access to that knowledge shapes health at the individual level. At its heart, the study of public health focuses on questions about relationships between science and society, and between reality and possibility: what effective public health policy is and how we can measure its effectiveness; what the relationship is, and ought to be, between research and policy; how we reconcile important moral and economic claims, or balance other values that compete with maximizing health; what counts as disease, over time and among cultures; how we think about cause and responsibility; what constitutes a healthy environment; how our fundamental beliefs determine our approaches to health decisions; and how such decisions ought to be made.
Public health draws on theory and applied research in the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities. Specialized subjects within public health include epidemiology, population history, environmental health, disease prevention, aging, biostatistics, reproductive and family health, health policy, health education, and the politics of health-related research. A good foundation in the study of public health would include at least one course devoted to the field as a whole and one course in statistics, supplemented by courses that provide grounding in demographic history and processes, decision-making, science and health, and humanistic and ethical dimensions of the field. It also would include field experience. The advisory committee on public health suggests that the following categories of courses serve as a distributive guide for students interested in acquiring a foundation in the field.
Courses in Statistics
Demography: Population Processes
Decision-Making by Institutions and Individuals
Science and Medicine
Bioethics and Interpretations of Health
Field Experience (Winter Study Classes)