The list of core courses and elective courses for the M.S. in Health and the Public Interest (HAPI) program are detailed below. Additional elective courses may be taken with advance approval of the HAPI Program Director. Degree Requirements and information about the Capstone / Internship Project can be found on the links at the top left of this page.
HAPI-600 Health in Context: The Social World of Health and Illness (Judy Huei-yu Wang, Yulia Chentsova, Sylvia Onder, Leslie Hinkson, 3 credits, Fall Pre-Session)
Cultural, social, political, socioeconomic and corporate forces all affect health. This course will provide students with diverse social science perspectives on the ways in which contextual factors interact with biological factors to shape public health and individual experiences and expressions of physical and mental illness and wellness. This course encapsulates the interdisciplinary nature of the program, describing the current state of knowledge about not only social and cultural determinants of health but the effect of all nonmedical influences on perceptions of wellness and disease, choices of treatments, and health outcomes. Additionally, how we conceptualize who decides what health is; what is in the public interest; who has the right to access treatments and how health fits in with other social issues depends on underlying principles of philosophy, economics, ethics. This course will explore all these issues, using theoretical papers and recent empirical case studies from each discipline to examine the key issues in the field. Evaluation will be based on a paper and exam.
HAPI-601 Theory and Methods 1 - Epidemiology and Public Health: Evaluating Clinical and Epidemiological Research (Adriane Fugh-Berman, Tony Scialli, 3 credits, Fall)
This course will focus on understanding and critically analyzing medical literature regarding diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic interventions in humans. It will cover basic epidemiology and evidence-based medicine, including the appropriate and inappropriate use of observational studies (cross-sectional, cohort, and case-control studies) and randomized controlled trials. Adverse event assessment through passive and active pharmacosurveillance systems will be covered, as well as premarket pharmaceutical and medical device testing required by regulatory authorities (including preclinical studies, and Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III trials). The course will cover sensitivity, specificity, odds ratios, relative risk, power, and confidence intervals. Evaluation will be based on participation and exams.
AGHL-503 The Biology of Health & Disease (Adam Myers and Jason Tilan, 2 credits, Fall)
Understanding biomedical literature, appropriate trial design, and perceptions of healing requires basic grounding in physiologic concepts. This course will focus on major biological systems and cover aspects of the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems. Students will develop basic knowledge in and appreciation of human function in health and disease. Evaluation will be based on exams.
HAPI-660 Health Economics (Robert Friedland or Adjunct, 3 credits, Fall)
This course uses the principles of economics to study the allocation of resources used to provide health and long-term care. Market inadequacies and market failures that have affected the financing, organization, and delivery of care are examined. The impact of private and public insurance programs on the organization and delivery of health care are analyzed, and the relationships between politics, policies, and health care markets are explored. Basic economics principles are taught and applied to the study of health care. Evaluation will be based on exams.
HAPI-603/HAPI-623 Seminar (0-1 credit in each of the Fall and Spring semesters)
The biweekly or monthly seminar series will be a highlight of the program. There are a plethora of scholars and policymakers in the Washington DC area and faculty from other countries are frequent visitors; we plan to have a dynamic, diverse group of speakers. Seminar topics may include cross-cultural views of disease, cultural change and health, the medicalization of normal life, corporate shaping of discourse about illness, the regulation of medical products, placebo effects, symptom formation and healing, the high costs of drugs, creating new diseases, and the opioid epidemic. The seminar series will include student interaction with speakers and other audience members and will be followed within the next few days by small faculty-run groups in which students will assess the speakers’ evidence, analysis, and rhetoric. Evaluation will be based on a short paper and active participation.
HAPI-700 Health Advocacy (Adriane Fugh-Berman, 2 credits, Fall)
This course is meant to foster understanding of how various stakeholders advocate for their issues, and how to identify parties that support or oppose the public interest. Students will learn what strategies are effective and why. Case studies will be used to demonstrate to students the fact that a particular set of problems requires understanding diverse perspectives and cross-disciplinary approaches in order to create successful medical and public health interventions. Evaluation will be based on papers.
HAPI-725 Theory and Methods of Inquiry 2: Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Methods (Sylvia Wen-ying Sylvia Chou, 3 credits, Spring)
This course will cover the basics of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods. The primary goal of this course is to prepare students to select the best analytic approaches, analyze data and interpret qualitative and quantitative data presented to them. For qualitative skills, we will cover grounded theory, content analysis, and semantic analysis, including an introduction to participant-observation methods, interview techniques, focus groups, archival research, and discourse analysis. For quantitative skills, we will cover basic research design and statistics including fundamentals of probability, statistical inference, basic statistical assumptions and hypothesis testing using correlations, non-parametric tests, analysis of variance, and linear regression and logistic regression. The course will also focus on ways to integrate these skills in mixed method designs. Evaluations will be based on exams and homework sets.
HAPI-750 Communicating Health, Communicating Illness: Symptom Generation, Treatment Trajectories, and How Ideas Spread in Healthcare (Yulia Chentsova, Adriane Fugh-Berman, Tom Sherman, 3 credits)
How are ideas about medicine and healthcare developed and disseminated, and what determines which ideas, practices and therapies are adopted, widely used, or abandoned? Symptoms (what a person experiences and interprets as a manifestation of illnesses) and what they symbolize are shaped not only by our unique life experiences but also by shared ideas and behaviors about illness that are generated by social forces. Sources of these models include acquired or newly learned cultural beliefs and practices, competing orthodox and unorthodox medical systems, internet information, corporate marketing, and institutional health education initiatives. Together these forces shape which symptoms we experience as worthy of attention; whether they should be considered normal, unpleasant but tolerable, or pathological; whether symptoms fit with a particular illness – or many illnesses – that are known to us, whether we seek diagnosis, which experts we consult, which treatments we seek and accept, and what measures we take to attain or maintain health. Internet, corporate and institutionally-driven ideas are rapidly changing the cultural marketplaces of ideas about health, medicine, health economics and health care delivery. Medical practice and public discourse about health are affected by advances in science and analyses of evidence, but they are also affected by governmental, regulatory, and commercial forces. The spread of ideas depends on their memorability, credibility, and transmissibility. This course will bring together interdisciplinary literature from medicine, transcultural psychiatry, physiology, psychology and sociology to explore interactions among evidence, education, promotion and public relations, and how the “science of spread” affects public health. Evaluation will be based on two papers and a presentation.
ELECTIVES (Fall 2019)
PPOL 490 International Public Health (Maxine Weinstein) The efforts of societies to improve health and increase longevity have constituted a major on-going social revolution of the past 200 years. Our work this semester will be a wide-ranging survey of social, economic, demographic and public health perspectives on that movement. Lectures, readings, and class discussions will cover the social history of health in past times, belief systems about the causes of disease and illness, the evolution of major causes of disease over time, the ecology and etiology of major infectious and chronic diseases, social and economic factors affecting the incidence and severity of illnesses, the social and economic consequences of changes in mortality and health, and programs designed to affect health conditions. Issues relating both to currently industrialized countries and developing countries will be discussed.
PPOL 601 Issues In Sexuality Law and Policy (Frank Bewkes)This course will explore how American law and policy has confronted and continues to confront issues of sexuality. Topics will include, but are not limited to, sexual orientation and gender identity. While 2015 brought a major Supreme Court win and marriage rights for same-sex couples, the fight for full LGBTQ equality continues. Debates rage over what the policy goals for the LGBTQ rights movement should be now and how to prioritize them. In addition to addressing the continued discrimination many LGBTQ people experience every day, such as in employment and education, the course will explore some of the current debates, Constitutional and otherwise, around topics such as polyamory, sex work, the First Amendment, LGBTQ family formation, and the intersection of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. The course will provide a grounding in the contours of current sexuality law and policy, while also delving into some emerging areas that remain ripe for new policy formation. We will also look at the regulatory process and the role that has played in American sexuality policy. Where appropriate, how sexual minority rights have been framed and addressed in some international jurisdictions will be considered to properly place our discussions in a globalized world. The course will be approached with a legal lens, but prior legal education or experience is neither required nor expected.
PPOL 614 The Federal Budget in a Time of Madness (Professor TBD) The federal budget, the congressional budget process and budget politics are now both the major way policy is made...and stopped. What in theory should be a substantive debate that responds to national needs and current priorities, in practice has become highly emotional and hyper-political process that includes annually threatened government shutdowns, defaults on the national debt, routinely ignored deadlines and anything but a compromise on key issues. This course will explain all of the basics of federal budgeting from key concepts (deficit, debt, authorizations, appropriations, scoring, etc.), to the budget process (president’s budget, congressional budget resolution, reconciliation, sequestration, etc.), to the main players (the budget committees, Congressional Budget Office, Joint Tax Committee, etc.). It will also explain how these seemingly noncontroversial parts of the annual federal budget debate are being used and misused to achieve political rather than economic and priority-setting goals. The course will include guest speakers who have or still are directly involved in the annual federal budget debate. Readings will include actual budget documents so students are familiar with the materials they will use in the future.
PPOL 640 Health Care Quality: Recent Policy Issues (William Encinosa) This course provides an introduction to how public policy can be used to improve healthcare quality and the public reporting of quality. Topics include: (1) The National Quality Strategy under the Affordable Care Act (ACA); quality under "Medicare For All" proposals; the Quality Payment Program under MACRA and MIPS; the quality of Medicaid; racial/ethnic disparities in quality; international comparisons; (2) Quality measures and the science of ranking and comparing providers; (3) Designing incentives for rewarding quality: pay-for-performance models versus behavioral economic models (Nudge theory, default theory, peer group effects, shame); shared-savings models; accountable care organizations (ACOs) and other Alternative Payment Models; (4) Protecting the patient: patient safety and medical errors; the Checklist Manifesto; alternative tort reforms, the Apology Initiative; payment policies for hospital-acquired conditions and readmissions; (5) Coordinating care: electronic health records and digital health care; the medical home model; bundled payment design; (6) Measuring preventive care quality: debates over screening guidelines; the science of measuring the cost offsets and outcomes of preventive care and pharmaceuticals; (7) Reporting quality: report cards; consumer use of public reports; physician use of internal reports; crowd-sourced quality ratings; (8) Measuring overuse, underuse, waste, and the costs-savings from quality; comparative effectiveness methods; geographical cost and quality variation; (9) Current policy issues in personalized medicine and genomics; (10) The impact of insurer/provider competition and consolidation on quality; and (11) The Opioid Crisis. By the end of the course, students should be able to think critically about the key health policy issues related to improving healthcare quality.
ELECTIVES (sPRING 2019)
PPOL-638 Population Change, Prospects and Challenges (Maxine Weinstein, 3 credits)
This course is designed to provide a broad overview of the field of population studies. It will provide an introduction to basic methods of demographic analysis and explore social science perspectives on population-related issues. It explores past and current trends in the growth of the population of the world and of selected regions; components of population change and their determinants; and the social and economic “causes and consequences” of population change.
LING-589 Institutional Discourse (Heidi Hamilton, 3 credits)
This course will provide opportunities to develop and build on students’ knowledge and practice of discourse analysis by exploring aspects in which institutions and discourse intersect. During the first few weeks of the course, students will read and discuss both classic and current studies by interactional sociolinguists, conversation analysts, ethnographers, and sociologists in order to become familiar with the wide range of notions and phenomena addressed by scholars in the field of institutional discourse. Such topics may include: narratives in institutions; intertextuality; identity construction; ‘talking an institution into being’; institutional gatekeeping encounters; ‘total’ institutions; front- and backstage in institutions; frame-shifting; facework and linguistic politeness; epistemic stance; language and power/agency; discourse shaping effects of professional codes of ethics and principles; and the interrelationships between professional and institutional discourses. *unavailable in academic year 2019-2020*
HAPI-000 Social Epidemiology (Judy Huei-yu Wang and/or Adjunct, 3 credits)
This course will focus on social and policy influences on health outcomes, with a goal of understanding inequalities in health related to socioeconomic status, different racial and ethnic groups, and social networks, support and isolation. Students will be introduced to basic concepts and measures of epidemiology as applied to understanding the ways in which social, political, cultural, and economic circumstances influence chances for a healthy life.
HAPI-000 Comparative Health Systems (Adjunct, 2 credits)
This course will assess and compare the overall effectiveness of health systems in several developing and developed countries and identify the major determinants of health in these countries. It will also explore the basics of health policymaking, healthcare delivery, and the roles of government, corporations and consumers in the successes or failures of health care delivery systems.
HAPI-000 Politics of Food (Tom Sherman, 2 credits)
Among the twelve most prevalent causes of preventable death in the United State, ten are directly attributable in part to poor nutrition and dietary choices; the U.S. diet is a leading cause of morbidity. This observation alone justifies a course examining details of the U.S. food production system. Moreover, in the U.S., the details of food production are mired in politics in the same way that big business, corporate practices and the economy are interwoven in our political system. For example, given that approximately 80% of calories consumed in the U.S. are grown domestically, one explanation for the association between diet and morbidity is that commodity subsidies that encourage poor diet are essentially financing our own demise. As attractive (and tidy . . . and true) as this observation is, however, commodity subsidies account for less than 5% of the $956 billion U.S. Farm Bill, and thus offers only a partial explanation for the impact of this bill on the health of Americans. The politics of the U.S. Farm Bill are also the politics of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Walmart, of farm debt, and the wages of agricultural workers. In addition, the Politics of Food course will examine the generation of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the National School Lunch Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
HAPI-000 Women’s Health (Tony Scialli, 2 credits)
The practice of medicine involving women’s health in the U.S. and other developed countries has been heavily influenced by cultural attributes of women’s health providers. Education of these providers has been passed from one trainee down to trainees two or three years junior, resulting in the perpetuation of practices that cannot be justified based on scientific study or patient preferences. More than one-third of babies are delivered by cesarean section, a major surgical procedure, and a large proportion of adult women are subjected to unnecessary hysterectomy. Contraceptive technology has placed the responsibility squarely on the woman who wants to delay or avoid pregnancy, and sterilization procedures are applied in larger numbers to women than men in spite of the demonstrated superior safety and effectiveness of male compared to female sterilization. It is not sufficient to simply criticize these practices; rather, criticism and movement for change must be based on an understanding of reproductive anatomy and physiology and an understanding of the pathological basis of interventions that may be unnecessary and the thought processes that perpetuate these interventions. This course will combine a teaching of the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of female reproduction with an exploration of the cultural and societal factors that foster medical practices that are at best unnecessary and at worst dangerous. The course does not require a background in biology. Teaching will be by lecture with small group discussions and selected readings.