Health and Society Requirements

  • Health is a key human good – even a human right, some claim – and, in the last century, a center of gravity for vast economic and scientific investment. Infant mortality plummeted and human lifespans increased in some places, but not symmetrically across race, class, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, and culture. Some of the putative gains in health are contested: lives are longer, but more people die slowly and away from home; and the United States spends more per capita on health care than any country in the world but achieves only average public health results. This major offers multidisciplinary inquiry and reflection for students interested in the intersection of physiological, social, political and ethical factors concerning human health. The Health and Society major requires 40 credits (10 courses) plus an Applied Experience.

    Questions core to the major include:

    (I)  What is human health and what about it should matter to us? Is health an intrinsic good, and instrumental good, or both? How do we reckon with health disparities induced by forms of social stratification including but not restricted to race, gender, sexuality and religion?

    (II)  What are our responsibilities and obligations to each other about health? Is health care a right, as the United Nations’ 1948 Declaration of Human Rights claims? How should scarce medical resources (like kidneys and livers for transplant) be distributed? How should health care system resources (like access to medical professionals) be distributed? What are the tradeoffs between public health and individual choices (in cases like vaccines)?

    (III)  How can we understand human health – in terms of biological capability and function, in terms of social constructions, or both? How do understandings of health vary across and within cultures? How do biomedical models of health and health care accommodate alternate non-western perspectives? What are the implications for patients and providers when these perspectives on health diverge?

    (IV)  What should we do about this key human good? What are the strengths and limitations of policy reform to improve the health of human populations? What are the impacts of patient activism and health movements on health care reforms? How has biomedicine sought to integrate humanistic and social science perspectives into improving clinical work?

    Requirements for Major


    • Health and Society majors should plan to take a Research Methods course (item 6 below) and a Capstone course (item 10 below) in the same or closely related disciplines. Students planning to declare a major should discuss their plans as early as possible with the coordinator.

    • No more than 20 of the 40 credits for the major may come from any one department. A particular course may only fulfill one major requirement category.

    Introductory courses (both courses required for all majors):

    (1)   HSOC-100
    (2)   STAT-141Q

    Foundational courses (three courses, one from each list):

    (3)   ANTH-235; HS-202; POL-354; or SPAN-308
    (4)   PHIL-246 or POL/IDS-336
    (5)   BIO-102Q or 150

    Research methods course (one course from the following list):

    (6)   ANSO-200; HS-261W; HIST-200W; PHIL-246; POL-300; PSYC-200Q; STAT-243W.

    Interdisciplinary courses (note: no more than one may be taken at the 100- or 200-level):

    Humanities (one course from the following list)

    (7)   ENGL-330*; PHIL-240, 246, 354*; POL/IDS-336; SPAN-308.

    Social science (one course from the following list):

    (8)   ANTH-235; ANTH/ENV-230; ECON-311; ENV-332; ENV/SOC-220; HEP-203, 275; HEP/SOC-298; POL-343, 354; PSYC-214, 275*, 311, 312, 320.

    Natural science and mathematics (one course from the following list):

    (9)   BIO-102, 150, 201, 306, 350*; BIO/HS-205, 206; ENVS-140Q, HS-334; STAT-243W.

    Capstone course (one course from the following list):

    (10)   ANSO-460W; ECON-403; HS-413, 447, 452; POL-437W, 442W, 452W; PSYC-471*.  Additional substitutions may be approved by the coordinator on a case-by-case basis.

    Note: Courses marked with an asterisk (*) may be counted in semesters when the topic is approved by the coordinator.

    Applied Learning experience:
    Students must complete an applied learning experience focusing on health and society, from among the following options, with the approval of the coordinator.

    • Internships
    • Bonner Leaders Program
    • Melrose Fellows
    • Model UN
    • Semester-long research (with program faculty)
    • Accredited off-campus research (BIO-485, others as appropriate)
    • Parlee Center for Science and the Common Good Fellows
    • U-Imagine
    • Summer Fellows research
    • Study Abroad

    This applied learning experience may or may not satisfy the XLP Quest requirement.

    Students fulfill the major W requirement by taking one of the listed W-courses. The major O requirement is fulfilled in the Capstone course.

    Note: For students planning on obtaining a Master of Public Health degree, one semester of calculus (MATH-111 or 112) is highly recommended.

    Health and Society Minor

    A minor in Interdisciplinary Health Studies consists of 20 credits.

    (1)  HSOC-100   

    (2)   Two of the following six courses:
           ANTH-235; BIO-150, 350*; HS-202, 275; HS/SOC-298; PHIL-246; POL-354.

    (3)   Two courses from the following list (or from among the remaining courses under Requirement (2)), where one of the two is either a Humanities (‘H’) or Science (‘S’) course:
    BIO-305 (‘S’), 306 (‘S); BIO/HS-205 (‘S’), 206 (‘S’); ECON-311; ENGL-330 (‘H’); ENVS-140Q (‘S’), 216, 332; ENS/SOC-220; HS-203, 334 (‘S’); POL-343, 336; PSYC-311, 312 (‘SS’); SPAN-308 (‘H’), STAT-243W (‘S).

    Note: Courses marked with an asterisk (*) may be counted in semesters when the topic is approved by the coordinator.

    At least 12 of the 20 credits for the minor must be in addition to credits already counting toward the student’s major(s) and/or another minor.

    Capstone courses, special topics courses, and independent study courses may also count toward the minor when the topic is appropriate and with prior approval from the coordinator.