SOC 395J • Gender, Health and Society COURSE CANCELLED
9:00 AM-12:00 PM
his course considers the process of policy formation by examining the gender dimensions of health, illness, and the medical care industry in the United States, with some focus on international comparisons. It is motivated by the fact that because of biological and social forces health and disease have important gender-specific components. Economics and politics are highly relevant in determining women's health risks. Relative to other developed nations income inequality in the United States is very high and because of disadvantages in the labor force women are more likely than men to be poor, particularly if they are unmarried. Of the more than forty-seven million Americans with no health insurance a disproportionate fraction are single women with children. Concentrating on gender is important because, as we will find, men and women have different physical and mental health care needs. Yet our society, including our medical care institutions, often ignores those differences, especially when other factors such as race and poverty are involved. Much medical research for example, such as that related to heart disease, is based on samples of white men and the risk factors affecting the coronary health of women, African Americans, and other groups are often poorly understood. As of yet, we understand little concerning the impact of alcoholism and drug abuse for women and its long-term consequences for their reproductive, social, and emotional health.
These gaps in knowledge concerning risks and appropriate treatments have very specific causes that we will investigate. The collection of readings will allow us to examine the social institutions that shape men and women's health and health care, including work, education, the family, and the medical care system itself. Specific topics will include reproductive health, the role of interpersonal relationships, single motherhood and the stress of raising children alone, welfare and health care, divorce and changes in health, specific illnesses that women experience including breast and ovarian cancer, and the forces that influence research into women's health problems. We will also touch upon the role of local, state and federal agencies in health policy formulation and implementation, the politics of the medicalization of women's issues including childbirth, refugee and immigrant women's health, and more. We will, of course, also deal with the role of women as major actors in changing the health care system, reducing health risks for themselves and their families, and their roles as health care providers, public administrators, and leaders in the health care establishment.
The second objective of the course is for students to develop an understanding of how to evaluate and use the major sources of health data (e.g., demographic statistics, administrative records, health surveys, etc.). Such data are central to policy formation and are used by both informed and uninformed observers. Our objective is to develop a critical understanding of the appropriate and legitimate use of health-related data and to determine how they can best be used to evaluate a broad array of public policies related to women's health care.
Lastly, the course will examine the role of major American political institutions involving all levels of government, including the presidency, Congress, the courts, and the bureaucracy, in the making of public policy. Alternative political ideologies regarding state and private responsibility for women's health will be compared and contrasted. In a similar vein, we will gauge the relative power of key participants outside the system, such as interest groups, researchers, and the media.
Students will be expected to write an issues brief during the course of the class and participate in class discussion.
Bird, C.E. and P.P. Rieker, Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choices and Social
Policies, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008
Freund, P., B. McGuire, and L. Podhurst, Health, Illness, and the Social Body: A Critical Sociology, (4thed.), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003
Kingdon, J.W., Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, New York: Addison-Wesley, 2003
Stone, D., Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making, New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2001