WGST 150: Health and Society

This multidisciplinary introduction to health and society is a critical examination of diverse understandings of health, illness, healing, and health care operating in the contemporary United States with an emphasis on community and societal health. We investigate health status and the determinants of health with particular attention to the social inequities underlying health and health care disparities at the intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality, age, and ability. Other key subjects include how health problems are defined; various strategies for improved health, the current public health and health care systems in historical perspective, “health justice” and rights to health/health care, the roles of government and private players in the production of health, and selected health topics.

WGST 212: Feminist Bioethics

Attentive to the ways that gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, and other social systems influence ethical frameworks, norms, and values as well as health and disease, feminist bioethics analyzes moral concerns in clinical care, biomedical research, health care organization and financing, and health policy in the service of the health of all persons and communities. This course draws on the theoretical resources of feminist philosophy and religious social ethics as well as on the narratives and practices of law, medicine, public health, and the social and biological sciences to examine bioethical issues across the lifespan. Not limited to "women's issues" (e.g. reproduction), the course also addresses the historical emergence of feminist bioethics, the ethics of care and of empowerment, relational autonomy, the right to bodily self-determination, narrative ethics, justice and oppression, dependency, vulnerability, the moral status of persons, as well as reproductive justice, the ethics of research on pregnant women, and the commodification of reproductive labor.

WGST 214: Women and Health

This multi-disciplinary course introduces a broad range of concepts and issues related to the highly diverse group we call “women” and their health with a primary focus on the United States. The first half of the course explores basic definitions, concepts, data, and narratives regarding women’s health needs, status, and experiences, the social determinants of health, women's health movements, women as midwives and community health workers, and related health care including insurance and recent reforms. The second half of the course focuses on three interrelated health realms: sexual and reproductive health, violence, and mental health.

WGST 240: U.S. Public Health

A quarter century ago the Institute of Medicine defined the work of public health as "what we as a society do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy." Historically rooted in a commitment to social justice, U.S. public health is now renewing this commitment through 1) an epidemiological shift to examine the social, economic, and political inequities that create disparate health and disease patterns by gender, class, race, sexual identity, citizenship, etc., and 2) a corresponding health equity movement in public health practice. This broad-ranging course examines the above as well as the moral and legal groundings of public health, basic epidemiology, and the roles of public and private actors. Highlighted health topics vary year to year.

WGST 321: Seminar. Gender, Justice, and Health Policy

Various understandings of justice persist and vie for dominance in contemporary health policy debates. Health justice extends beyond recent health care reforms as well as beyond distributive notions of justice that typically minimize social structures (gender, race, class, culture, citizenship) and social processes (decision-making, division of labor). This seminar explores multiple constructions of justice (egalitarian, procedural, solidarity, social connection/responsibility, legal) drawn from moral and political philosophy and from religious social ethics. We examine these diverse justice frameworks as potential and actual normative guides in the domestic and global health policy realms, and do so through close readings of texts, weekly writing, seminar discussion facilitated by students and faculty, and student research.

WGST 330: Seminar. (Im)Morality on Stage: Repro-Eugenics in Twentieth-Century United States. Co-taught with Professor Mata

This seminar engages bioethics, history, and cultural and theatre studies to examine the morality of reproductive eugenics in twentieth-century United States. To set the social-historical context, we study contemporaneous birth control and population control movements and resistance to them as well as the gender, race, and class relations manifest in public health/healthcare. We analyze (though not exclusively) the state-sanctioned sterilization of low-income persons in North Carolina and examine the moral, medical, and other arguments given for and against this program and others. Drawing on theatre studies to educate about social justice and social change, we stage a reading of a play about the 1960's sterilization of North Carolinians. We also investigate the legal, regulatory, and political strategies used to address state responsibility for such harm.

WGST 340: Seminar. Global Health

This seminar explores contemporary global/international health through a political economy perspective that extends the disease-oriented, biomedical model of global health through engagement with the social determinants of health including gender, income inequality, culture, and nationality. Absent a global health infrastructure, we devote particular attention to the influential role of the United States in shaping global health and disease. South-to South efforts to improve individual and community health are also studied. We examine these subjects primarily through close readings of texts, weekly writing, seminar discussion facilitated by students and faculty, and student research.