Course: Social and Behavioral Aspects of Public Health

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Lecture Materials

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Unit 1: Ecology, Narrative, and Meaning

» Lecture

This talk introduces several important concepts, including the idea that individuals inhabit and are inhabited by a multilevel environment of influences with which they interact. However, individuals are not passive entities floating in this environment - they have abilities both to shape it and to selectively perceive it. Finally, the individual, features of the environment, and the transaction with the environment evolve over time, so that we become interested not only in static states but in the way in which an individual and his or her environment are changing.

This talk also introduces narratives, the concept of meaning, and the role meaning is thought to have in shaping health, behavior, and development.

Examples of narratives:

•  Patel S. Smoker's plight. The Stew, Spring 2006, 31-32.

•  Shihab HM. Abraham's story. Johns Hopkins Public Health. Special issue 2006, 47.

Unit 2: Gender

» Lecture

What is the difference between sex and gender?

What are the mechanisms that relate gender to wellness and illness?

Unit 3: Cultural Perspective

» Lecture

Why think about health in a cultural perspective?

This talk introduces a description of culture, uses some examples contrasting American Indian and 'White' US health-related attitudes, and talks about Arthur Kleinman's concept of 'explanatory models' as a way of exploring the implications of culture for a particular health-related issue.

Unit 4: Race and Ethnicity

» Lecture

The goal of this session is to introduce the concept of race as a social construct (how you see yourself, how others see you) that is both meaningless and meaningful, and to discuss some of the public health implications of the concepts.

Unit 5: Poverty, Social Support, and Social Capital

» Lecture

The goal of this session is to discuss ways in which poverty is measured, and to explore mechanisms by which poverty is thought to contribute to poor health. Concepts of social support and social capital are introduced as factors that may ameliorate the impact of poverty.

Unit 6: Role of Families

» Lecture

Nearly everyone lives with or is connected to family members. Families have particular ethics - family members are special to each other in ways that have important consequences, yet these relationships are frequently ignored in health programs.

Unit 7: Rational Decision Making

» Lecture

Is there such a thing as rational decision-making.

Unit 8: Spirituality

» Lecture

Spirituality and religion are not only important aspects of identity for many populations, but can have direct and indirect implications for physical and psychological health outcomes. Evidence for this connection will be discusses, as well as the debated role of spirituality in public health and/or medical care.

Unit 9: Change Within Systems

» Lecture

Making change within systems: the case of changing medical provider behavior. This session will start by discussing observed variation in practice patterns, followed by issues encountered in trying to influence those patterns through educational means. We will end by talking about factors within medical practices that influence the process of change.

» Lecture

Marketing change at a mass and individual level. This talk plucks from the huge health behavior change literature three 'trendy' concepts that have much appeal and are potentially more accessible than some other approaches. We will talk first about behavior change theories in general, and then address the theory of 'stages of change,' followed by a discussion of motivational interviewing and social marketing.