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Fall 2011 - 61130 - PA383C - Politics and Process

Gender, Health and Society

Instructor(s): Angel, Jacqueline L.
Unique Number: 61130
Day & Time: W 9:00 - 12:00 pm
Room: SRH 3.124
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information
Course Overview

This course acquaints students with how public policy develops and is adopted in the American governmental system. It is normally taken during the first year. The course helps students understand the different settings in which policy develops and the factors that influence its development. Each section of the course uses different substantive policy concerns such as international affairs, social policy, community engagement, and resource and environmental regulation to explore how individuals and institutions initiate and/or give legitimacy to public policy, including the executive and legislative branches, the courts, interest groups, and individual citizens. The course also covers the dynamics of the policy process by focusing on the roles of and relationships among various levels of government and the concepts and models used to describe these aspects of policy development. The roles of ideas, concepts, and formal methods of analysis in policy development are discussed. Reading assignments and class discussion focus on case studies, legislative hearings, policy-issue briefs, court decisions, and theoretical works which highlight and explain the development of particular public policies.

Section Description

This course is designed to explore 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 womenís 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, especially if they are unmarried. Of the forty-one million Americans with no health insurance a disproportionate fraction are single women with children. A focus 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. We will examine the social institutions that shape men and womenís health and health care, including work, education, the family, and the medical care system itself. Other 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 and reducing health risks for themselves and their families. We will examine their roles as health care providers and as administrators and leaders in the health care establishment. We will examine the role of women in defining health care policy as it relates to the health of women and children. Specific topics of interest to class participants will also be covered.

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 womenís health care.

Requirements: Class sessions will consist of lectures and collective discussions. Attendance and participation are integral parts of the course and will count towards the final grade. Other requirements include a issue brief, article review, and a term project based on a policy analysis.


This class is cross-listed with SW 395K; WGS 393; and SOC 395J