Skip Navigation

Public Health

The field of public health touches everyone and is by nature interdisciplinary, with important contributions made by anthropologists, sociologists, biologists, economists, statisticians, historians, physicians, and political scientists among many others. Public health differs from medicine in that it is involved in promoting good health within groups of people, whether small communities or entire countries. It may take the form of vaccination campaigns or managing epidemics on a global scale to providing nutritious food from local farms to communities and changing policies to promote healthy behaviors. At Carleton, several courses and civic and community engagement opportunities exist for exploring public health and gaining the skills required to analyze the complex issues surrounding health inequity.

The list below includes courses that may 1) be focused in their entirety on public or global health, 2) cover public health related topics through projects, community engagement, or modules, or 3) provide an important foundation for further study in the field, such as Statistics (MATH 215).  Foreign language study also falls under this category, and may be particularly relevant for global public health and work with immigrant communities.  Courses listed below may not be taught each year.  Please see the ACE page to find courses related to public health with an academic civic engagement component (engaging with community).

BIOL 101: Human Reproduction and Sexuality

The myths surrounding human reproduction and sexuality may out weigh our collective knowledge and understanding. This course will review the basic biology of all aspects of reproduction--from genes to behavior--in an attempt to better understand one of the more basic and important processes in nature. Topics will vary widely and will be generated in part by student interest. A sample of topics might include: hormones, PMS, fertilization, pregnancy, arousal, attraction, the evolution of the orgasm, and the biology of sexuality.
Offered Winter 2021

BIOL 310: Immunology

This course will examine the role of the immune system in defense, allergic reactions, and autoimmunity. Topics to be covered include the structure and function of antibodies, cytokines, the role of the major histocompatibility complex in antigen presentation, cellular immunity, immunodeficiencies, and current techniques used to study immune responses.
Offered Winter 2021

ECON 264: Health Care Economics

This course will focus on the economics of medical care and how health care markets and systems work. We will consider both private health insurance markets and publicly provided social health insurance. The changes which demography, technology and the Affordable Health Care Act are bringing to health care delivery will be examined. Some time will be devoted to understanding the health care systems in other countries. This is a discussion course.
Not offered 2020-2021

ENTS 212: Global Food Systems

The course offers a survey of the world's food systems--and its critics--from the initial domestication of plants and animals to our day. We will begin by examining the critical theoretical and foundational issues on the subject, and then turn to a series of case studies that illuminate major themes around the world. Topics will include land and animal husbandry, the problem of food security, food politics, the Green Revolution, biotechnology, and the implications of global climate change. Throughout the course, students will assess and seek to integrate differing disciplinary and methodological approaches. The class will include field experiences.
Not offered 2020-2021

HIST 100: American Farms and Food

What's for dinner? The answers to that question--and others like it--have never been more complicated or consequential than they are today. Behind a glance into the refrigerator or the shelves of any supermarket lie a myriad of concerns, ideas, and cultural developments that touch on everything from health and nutrition to taste, tradition, identity, time, cost, and environmental stewardship. This seminar will consider the evolution of these interconnected issues in American history, giving particular attention to the rise, inner workings, and effects of the agro-industrial food system and to contemporary movements that seek a new path forward.
Offered Fall 2020

HIST 205: American Environmental History

Environmental concerns, conflicts, and change mark the course of American history, from the distant colonial past to our own day. This course will consider the nature of these eco-cultural developments, focusing on the complicated ways that human thought and perception, culture and society, and natural processes and biota have all combined to forge Americans' changing relationship with the natural world. Topics will include Native American subsistence strategies, Euroamerican settlement, industrialization, urbanization, consumption, and the environmental movement. As we explore these issues, one of our overarching goals will be to develop an historical context for thinking deeply about contemporary environmental dilemmas.
Offered Fall 2020, Spring 2021

HIST 262: Public Health: History, Policy, and Practice

This course will examine the rise of the institution of public health in the modern period. Locating public health within the social history of medicine we will consider how concepts of health and disease have changed over time and how the modern state's concern with the health of its population cannot be separated from its need to survey, police, and discipline the public. Topics covered will include miasma, contagion, quarantine, vaccination and the connection between European imperialism and the institutionalization of public health in colonial contexts. We will also consider how certain epidemics became the major drivers for public health.
Not offered 2020-2021

HIST 308: American Cities and Nature

Since the nation's founding, the percentage of Americans living in cities has risen nearly sixteenfold, from about five percent to the current eighty-one percent. This massive change has spawned legions of others, and all of them have bearing on the complex ways that American cities and city-dwellers have shaped and reshaped the natural world. This course will consider the nature of cities in American history, giving particular attention to the dynamic linkages binding these cultural epicenters to ecological communities, environmental forces and resource flows, to eco-politics and social values, and to those seemingly far-away places we call farms and wilderness.
Offered Winter 2021

IDSC 235: Perspectives in Public Health

This course will explore the many dimensions of public health within the United States and provide an introduction to community based work and research. Public health is by nature interdisciplinary and the course will address local public health issues through the lenses of social, biological, and physical determinants of health. In addition to readings and discussions, the course will incorporate the expertise of visiting public health practitioners and include site visits to local public health agencies. Students will work collaboratively with a community partner on a public health-related civic engagement project selected during Fall term and continued during Winter Break. This is the first course of a two course winter break program.
Offered Fall 2020

IDSC 236: Public Health in Practice

This course is the second part of a two-term sequence beginning with Perspectives in Public Health. Over the winter break, students will spend two weeks exploring a variety of public health organizations both locally (Minneapolis/St. Paul) and nationally. During the winter term, students will complete their final public health-related civic engagement project in collaboration with a community partner, set their individual project back into the wider context of public health, and prepare to present their experience to a broader audience.
Offered Winter 2021

MATH 215: Introduction to Statistics

Introduction to statistics and data analysis. Practical aspects of statistics, including extensive use of statistical software, interpretation and communication of results, will be emphasized. Topics include: exploratory data analysis, correlation and linear regression, design of experiments, basic probability, the normal distribution, randomization approach to inference, sampling distributions, estimation, hypothesis testing, and two-way tables. Students who have taken Mathematics 211 are encouraged to consider the more advanced Mathematics 265-275 Probability-Statistics sequence.
Not offered 2020-2021

PHIL 222: Topics in Medical Ethics

This course examines a variety of topics in medical ethics. We begin with a unit on pandemic ethics: Who should get ventilators when there aren't enough for everyone? Do medical providers have a duty to treat during a pandemic? We then turn to the question "When is someone dead?" and consider how different answers to that question affect arguments over organ procurement. Our third unit is on the place of race, and racial judgments, in medicine. Is there a place for racial judgments in medicine? Finally, we turn to the question of how to think about decision making in a clinical context: what values are at play? And how should we think about disagreements between clinicians and patients? What about disagreements between patient's past wishes and their current wishes?


Offered Fall 2020

POSC 334: Global Public Health*

This seminar covers a variety of public health issues in advanced capitalist and developing countries, including communicable diseases, neglected tropical diseases and scourges such as malaria, dengue, and AIDS, the effectiveness of foreign aid, and the challenges of reforming health care systems. Emphasis will be on how these issues interact with patterns of economic and social development and the capacity of states and international regimes. Students will develop a perspective on public policy using materials from diverse fields such as political science, epidemiology, history, economics, and sociology.
Not offered 2020-2021

POSC 338: Politics of Inequality and Poverty*

The unequal distribution of income and assets is arguably the most important issue in many political systems around the world, and debates over the appropriate role of government in fighting inequality form a primary dimension of political competition. In this course, we will explore the politics surrounding economic inequality around the world. We will discuss how inequality influences political participation in democracies and dictatorships, shapes prospects for democratic transition/consolidation, and affects economic growth and social well-being. We will also examine when and how political institutions can mitigate negative aspects of inequality.
Not offered 2020-2021

PSYC 260: Health Psychology

This course will examine how psychological principles can be employed to promote and maintain health, prevent and treat illness, and encourage adherence to disease treatment regimens. Within a biopsychosocial framework, we will analyze behavioral patterns and public policies that influence risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic pain, substance abuse, and sexually transmitted diseases, among other conditions. Additionally, students in groups will critically examine the effects of local policies on health outcomes and propose policy changes supported by theory and research. A grade of C- or better must be earned in both Psychology 260 and 261 to satisfy the LS requirement.
Offered Fall 2020

SOAN 203: Anthropology of Good Intentions

Is the environmental movement making progress? Do responsible products actually help local populations? Is international AID alleviating poverty and fostering development? Today there are thousands of programs with sustainable development goals yet their effectiveness is often contested at the local level. This course explores the impacts of sustainable development, conservation, and AID programs to look beyond the good intentions of those that implement them. In doing so we hope to uncover common pitfalls behind good intentions and the need for sound social analysis that recognizes, examines, and evaluates the role of cultural complexity found in populations targeted by these programs.
Offered Fall 2020

SOAN 233: Anthropology of Food

Food is the way to a person's heart but perhaps even more interesting, the window into a society's soul. Simply speaking understating a society's foodways is the best way to comprehend the complexity between people, culture and nature. This course explores how anthropologists use food to understand different aspects of human behavior, from food procurement and consumption practices to the politics of nutrition and diets. In doing so we hope to elucidate how food is more than mere sustenance and that often the act of eating is a manifestation of power, resistance, identity, and community. Class fees apply.
Offered Winter 2021

SOAN 262: Anthropology of Health and Illness

An ethnographic approach to beliefs and practices regarding health and illness in numerous societies worldwide. This course examines patients, practitioners, and the social networks and contexts through which therapies are managed to better understand medical systems as well as the significance of the anthropological study of misfortune. Specific topics include the symbolism of models of illness, the ritual management of misfortune and of life crisis events, the political economy of health, therapy management, medical pluralism, and cross-cultural medical ethics.
Offered Fall 2020

SOAN 285: The Ethics of Civic Engagement

In this course, students will discuss the ethical questions that arise when they engage with others in research, service, organizing, or policy work. Students will read and talk about the meanings and forms of civic engagement and use these readings to reflect upon their own research or service projects, or to reflect upon the college's role in Haiti or Faribault, two areas where college members are actively engaged. Gaining insights from sociological and practice based readings, we will examine different perspectives on the ways that power and privilege relate to civic engagement. S/Cr/NC
Not offered 2020-2021

SOAN 395: Ethnography of Reproduction

This seminar explores the meanings of reproductive beliefs and practices in comparative perspective. Using ethnographies, it explores the relation between human and social reproduction. It focuses on (but is not limited to) ethnographic examples from the United States/Canada and from sub-Saharan Africa (societies with relatively low fertility and high utilization of technology and societies with mostly high fertility and low utilization of technology). Topics examined include fertility and birth, fertility rites, new reproductive technologies, abortion, population control, infertility, child survival and child loss.
Offered Spring 2021