The Sociology of Health Inequality

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

There is arguably no resource more important for social life than health. Health, however, is unequally distributed both within and across populations. This course provides pre-college students with an introduction to concepts, theories, and methods for understanding population health distributions and health inequality from a sociological perspective.

The course begins by examining health from a population perspective. Students will be introduced to concepts and theories from demography for understanding how countries’ disease burdens transition from being characterized primarily by infectious diseases to chronic illnesses. Particular attention will be paid to countries where this transition is ongoing—i.e. in Low and Middle Income Countries that face a “double burden” of disease. In addition to this “macro” perspective, the course will introduce students to Fundamental Cause Theory to understand how social conditions function has underlying causes of health inequality. The course will cover several major stratifying dimensions of health. We will read and review research that examines how gender, race/ethnicity, occupation, migration, and neighborhoods produce and reproduce health outcomes.

Students will be exposed to key challenges in data, measurement, and reporting of health inequality. The course will introduce students to sources of population and health data, provide opportunities to actively engage with readings from excerpts and books, as well as opportunities to express ideas in writing. The course will culminate in a 15-20 project presentation in which students will identify and analyze a population health problem. Students will be encouraged to consider how theory and data limitations enable or constrain the real-word feasibility of solving these problems.

At the end of the course, students will 1) understand health inequality from a sociological perspective, 2) be familiar with major population health challenges in both High and Low and Middle Income Countries, (3) understand the major stratifying dimensions of health, and (4) use this knowledge to analyze and present a contemporary health problem.

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this course. Students with interests in medicine, public health, sociology, and global problems of health and development will find the course of interest.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CESO0951
  • Length: 3 weeks

Program Information

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Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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