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 Disease (Adam Myers and Jason Tillan, 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-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. Evaluation will be based on exams and homework sets.
HAPI-700 Effective Advocacy and Effective Solutions (Adriane Fugh-Berman, 2 credits, Spring)
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-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.
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.
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.