Critical Health Issues

Taught by Stewart Auyash, Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education
3 credits

Public health and healthcare are front and center of our daily lives and news today. No sector of the US or the world is untouched by Covid-19. These events have brought attention to the need to learn more about how the public health and health care sectors function. 

Critical Health Issues is about the evolution and analysis of the vast networks that address the health of the population in the US. This includes the provision of health care services, the prevention of illness, disease, and death in communities, all sectors of government and industry, health workers, and how we consider the relationships between health and the quality of our lives.

In the U.S., health and medical establishments account for about 1 out of every 10 workers and about 17 cents out of every dollar spent. Even with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare), there are still more than 27 million people without insurance in the U.S. 

Health is also about racial, gender, ethnic, and class issues, as well as the inequality of services delivered and overall health status. The poor, immigrants, and other minorities are also affected by inequalities. Poverty is increasing and life expectancy is decreasing in the U.S. This course exams why.

Using epidemiological evidence and contrasting alternatives from the U.S. and abroad, this course uses a multidisciplinary approach to analyze the most recent health issues in U.S. We also study aspects of everyday life that affect health: healthy food access, racial inequalities, drug overdoses, decreasing life expectancy, and gun and domestic violence.  Developing news items will alter the topics we cover, but the following list summarizes the major subjects students will learn about and analyze in this course. 

  • The evolution of the way we provide health services and public health in the U.S. with special attention paid to the issues of health inequalities including the latest legislation, court decisions, and electoral politics about health reform.
  • The history, financing, and organization of vast systems such as Medicaid and Medicare, and the perspectives of the patients who qualify for these programs.
  • The providers of prevention and treatment in public health and health care while learning skills and developing creativity to deal with population health issues.
  • Technology as a tool for improvement, assisting, replacing, and harming prevention and treatment in the context of authoritarian medicine.
  • Demonstrating how to speak about things that matter about health, race, and other social determinants of health.
  • Not everyone has an equal ability to change their position in life and improve their health.
  • Empathy and cultural humility for understanding health issues.
  • Geography is health destiny. Can that be changed?
  • Uses of drugs, risks of overdoses, and the overdose epidemic.
  • Individual and community responsibility for health improvements and the social determinants of disease and health (SDOH).
  • Income inequality and decreasing life expectancy.
  • Envisioning a better health policy in the U.S. and the world.