Women, Health, and Social Justice

EWS 441: Women, Health, and Social Justice

Catalog Description

This course will examine the centrality of health issues to women’s political movements, and the threats to health posed by one’s gender, racial and economic status. This course will also investigate concrete contemporary controversies over genital and cosmetic surgery, abortion, anorexia, and sexually transmitted diseases–and the ways that public health problems are barometers of injustice.

 

Expected Outcomes

The course is intended for a general audience of students who seek to understand contemporary controversies about health problems or healthcare services for women by surveying recent social science, historical, philosophical and bioethical literature in this area.  In the U.S. and elsewhere, women and other disempowered groups are showing how their societies have failed both to protect their health and to maximize their opportunities for a healthy life. This course will investigate women’s health movements and their issues in order to illuminate the relationship between health and social justice.

 

  1. Students will identify relationships between public health and social justice issues
  2. Students will demonstrate familiarity with the history of women’s health movements from the 19thcentury to the present
  3. Students will analyze public health issues using the methods of different fields, e.g., the problem of anorexia can be analyzed as a psychological, sociological, and cultural problem
  4. Students will investigate the complexities of contemporary public health debates on the topics covered by the course
  5. Students will articulate the impact of medical and other technologies on society
  6. Students will refine their reading, writing, critical thinking, synthesizing and debating skills.

 

Course Outline

  1. women’s health movements
    1. medical paternalism
    2. the clinics
    3. international women’s health agencies
    4. setting medical research priorities
    5. access to health care
  2. reproductive health care
    1. sterilization abuse
    2. reproductive rights movement
    3. technology, birth control, and infertility
    4. aging, disability, and reproduction
  3. female body image
    1. anorexia and dieting
    2. liposuction and breast implants
    3. fashion and health: piercing, foot binding, corsets, etc.
    4. women with disabilities
  4. gendering the body
    1. female genital cutting
    2. transsexual surgery and hormone therapy
    3. intersex infants and sex assignment surgery
  5. environmental threats
    1. breast cancer
    2. racism as a health issue
    3. working class women and occupational safety
  6. sexuality and health
    1. women and AIDS
    2. health issues for lesbians
    3. sex education

 

Course Requirements:

Web- and classroom-based learning

Instruction in this course will take place both online (via Blackboard) and in the classroom. Students are required to participate in both the online and classroom components of the course. You will need to check the Blackboard course pages several times each week, especially the Assignments page, to get both the reading and other weekly assignments.

 

Classroom Attendance

You are required to attend class, which will meet two hours each week. Students are responsible for all material covered in class. Class attendance will be counted as pass/fail.  If you pass, you will receive credit for this part of the course, if you fail, your course grade will be lowered by 2/3 of a letter grade. Three or more unexcused absences will result in a failure for this part of the course.

 

Online Discussion

You are required to post one substantive Discussion Board message each week (for a total of 10 messages during the quarter).  See message guidelines for further instructions (under Course Documents).  In addition, you are required to post one “reply” message during five different weeks of the quarter (5 total), responding to one or more of your classmates’ messages (posts that raise questions in response to an online presentation count for this).  Your substantive message should be posted by Wednesday midnight each week, and your reply message should be posted by Sunday midnight; messages appearing after these deadlines will be counted late (you will not be given credit for messages that are more than a week late).  Completion of Discussion messages will be graded pass/fail.  If you pass, you will receive credit for this part of the course, if you fail, your course grade will be lowered by 2/3 of a letter grade.  Two or more missing posts and replies (and posts that do not follow the message guidelines will be counted as missing), or four or more late posts, will result in a failure for this part of the course.

 

Reading/Listening/Viewing Assignments

You should complete the weekly Assignments during the week they are scheduled. Weekly reading/listening/viewing assignments are listed in the weekly schedule (underAssignments).  You should also read the Discussion messages of your classmates. You should allow yourself at least 2-4 hours for these activities, which together with 2 hours of classroom instruction involve approximately 6 hours per week of class activity and “homework.”  Allow yourself another 2 hours per week to compose your Discussion messages, and to take the weekly practice tests and then look up information for the questions you missed.  The practice tests are not graded and will be available for the entire quarter to help you prepare for the final exam.

 

Presentation

Each student will give one in-class, 5-minute presentation that will consist of a critical review of some artistic, scholarly, educational, or journalistic work relevant to the week’s topics (e.g., a news story, book, film, website, tv program, organization, and so on).  See Course Documents for further instructions regarding this assignment, as well as a list of suggested materials to review.  During the first two weeks of the quarter, you can sign up for a particular week or topic on the Discussion Board.

 

Final Exam

The final exam will consist of two parts.  Part 1 will contain a selection of 50 questions, which will mostly be drawn from the weekly practice tests (under Assignments), with 5-10 new questions drawn from the same reading materials.  In Part 2, you will write two short essays (approximately 500 words each) on topics drawn from the weekly reading/listening/viewing assignments (see final exam study questions under Course Documents). The Discussion message guidelines include the standards that I will apply to evaluate your final essays, and the weekly Discussion messages will give you practice analyzing and writing about the assigned course materials.  Each part of the final exam will count for half of your final exam grade.

 

Study questions:

  1. Identify two or three significant accomplishments of the grassroots women’s health movement (in the U.S. or elsewhere) over the past century.  Describe these accomplishments and explain why they are significant.  Given the kinds of health problems we have covered in this course, if you were leading a women’s health promotion organization today, what one or two issues would you want your organization to address?  Explain.

 

  1. Describe one or more cases (in the U.S. or elsewhere) where a person’s prospects for a healthy life have been reduced because of her/his race, ethnicity, or nationality.  Explain how race, ethnicity, or nationality may have played a role in producing the outcomes in your cases.  Identify one or more steps that you think governments and health agencies should take to insure that racial and ethnic discrimination do not compromise the health of their citizens.  Support your proposals.

 

  1. Describe one or more cases (in the U.S. or elsewhere) where a person’s prospects for a healthy life have been reduced because of her/his economic status.  Explain how economic inequality may have played a role in producing the outcomes in your cases.  Describe one or more steps that you think governments and health agencies should take to insure that poverty does not compromise the health of their citizens.  Defend you proposals.

 

  1. Give two or three examples of how people use health care services to enhance their looks and body image.  Given the potential costs and health risks involved, describe two or more safeguards that should be put in place in order to protect the consumers of elective “vanity” health treatments.  Defend your proposals.

 

  1. Identify two or three ways that reproductive and sexual health care and social policy are currently inadequate in the U.S., and give examples.  Describe two or more social policies and programs that you think would be necessary to address the problems you’ve identified.  Defend your proposals.

 

  1. We are increasingly becoming aware of how our home, work, community, and social environments contribute to health outcomes.  Give examples of how environmental factors can raise our risk for particular illness, and then describe what you think should be done to reduce these risks.  Defend your answer.

 

Evaluation Criteria

      • Essay responds to all parts of the question and utilizes the space available to develop points
      • Essay shows accuracy and fairness in expressing ideas
      • Essay shows comprehension of the readings, radio stories, and other materials
      • Essay provides reasons and evidence for positions and conclusions
      • Essay includes brief explanations of complex claims or main points
      • Essay gives proper credit to sources of ideas (if part of the assigned reading, mention author or title, if not then provide citation information so reader can look up source)
      • Essay contains lucid, succinct, and well organized writing

 

Grading

If you pass the attendance and online Discussion part of the course, then your grade will be computed as follows: presentation 20%, Final exam: 80%.   If you fail class attendance, then your course grade will be lowered by 2/3 of a letter grade, and if you fail the online Discussion requirement then your course grade will be lowered by 2/3 of a letter grade.  You should check “my grades” (under Tools) to track your absences and practice test scores (these scores are not averaged into your final grade).  If you miss class or are more than a week late with a post due to an illness or emergency, then I will need to see documentation of your illness or emergency to excuse the absence or late post.