Policy Development: Gender, Health, and Society

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
MON 2:00 - 5:00 pm SRH 3.212


This course provides a foundation that will introduce students to the use of a variety of analytic tools employed in the policymaking process. We pay particular attention to the major players in the process, and how gender in conjunction with race and ethnicity have become more salient in policy formation. Given the centrality of health care to the modern welfare state, we will examine how gender, race, and ethnicity influence health policy. Toward that end, the class will examine the gender dimensions of health, illness, and the health care industry in the United States and other developed nations. It is motivated by the fact that health, disease, and medical care have important gender-specific dimensions that interact with other sources of disadvantage, economic and political structures, and culture. In the past the health care system often ignored gender, as well as race-and ethnic-based differences in health and health-care needs.

These gaps in knowledge concerning risks and appropriate treatments have very specific consequences that we will investigate and debate. The collection of readings will allow us to examine the social institutions that shape men’s and women’s health and health care. Specific topics will include reproductive health, single motherhood and the stress of raising children alone, welfare and health care, divorce and changes in health, certain illnesses that women experience including breast and ovarian cancer, drug and alcohol abuse, and the forces that influence research into men and women’s health problems. Furthermore, we examine the role of women as major actors in changing the health care system, reducing health risks for themselves and their families, and their roles as health care providers, public administrators, and leaders in the health care establishment.

The second objective of the course is for students to develop an understanding of the major sources of health social policy data (e.g., demographic statistics, administrative records, health surveys, etc.). Our objective is to develop a critical understanding of the appropriate use of health-related data and to determine how they can best be used to evaluate a broad array of public policies.Finally, throughout the semester we examine the role of different levels and branches of government, touch upon the role of local, state and federal agencies in health policy formation and implementation (e.g., Medicaid), the politics of the medicalization of women’s issues including childbirth, refugee and immigrant health, and more. Alternative political ideologies regarding state and private responsibility for women’s health will be compared and contrasted. This involves gauging the relative power of key non-governmental actors, such as interest groups, health care NGOs, researchers, and the media in the definition and framing of our health agenda.

Note that the book course deals with rapidly evolving issues and readings serve as a point of departure. They will be adjusted in conformity with student interests and as current events warrant.

Bird, C.E. and P.P. Rieker. 2008. Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choices and Social Policies. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Textbooks ( * denotes required )

No materials required


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