Columbia

PH 8773: A Social History of American Public Health | D. Rosner

Wed. 8:30-11:30, ARB room 532-B

The purpose of this course is to provide students with a historical understanding of the role public health practice has played throughout American history. The underlying assumptions are that disease, and the ways we define disease, are simultaneously reflections of social and cultural values, as well as important factors in shaping those values. Also, it is maintained that the environments that we build determine the ways we live and die. The dread infectious and acute diseases in the nineteenth century and the chronic, degenerative conditions of the twentieth are emblematic of the societies we created. The syllabus has been constructed to focus on a few particular themes and issues. The first part of the course will focus on the social and biological environment and the creation of conditions for nineteenth century epidemics of cholera, typhoid, yellow fever and other epidemic diseases. The second part of the course will trace the changing urban and industrial infrastructure and their relationship to late nineteenth and early twentieth century concerns about tuberculosis, industrial illness and infection. The third part of the course will trace public health practice, and public health campaigns, and the ways that social attitudes towards the industrial worker, the immigrant, African Americans, women and gays shaped the field. The last part of the course will look at the boundaries between public health and medical practice and raise questions about their shifting definitions. As topics indicate, the course will emphasize that public health is intimately related to broader social, political, as well as scientific, changes overtaking the country and will incorporate a very broad range of subjects from changes in urban living and culture, through the transformation of the industrial work place. See syllabus

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