Course Descriptions

Core courses

Students are required to complete four core courses for both the adjunct major and minor.  

For more information on courses, visit the Adjunct Major Requirements page and the Minor Requirements page

Approved elective courses can be found on our Elective Courses page.

*Please note that students who entered Northwestern prior to the Fall of 2014 can choose to complete the previous requirement of three core courses.

GBL_HLTH 301 Introduction to International Public Health

This course introduces students to pressing disease and health care problems worldwide and examines efforts currently underway to address them. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the course identifies the main actors, institutions, practices and forms of knowledge production characteristic of what we call “global health” today, and explores the environmental, social, political and economic factors that shape patterns and experiences of illness and healthcare across societies. We will scrutinize the value systems that underpin specific paradigms in the policy and science of global health and place present-day developments in historical perspective. Key topics will include: policies and approaches to global health governance and interventions, global economies and their impacts on public health, medical humanitarianism, global mental health, maternal and child health, pandemics (HIV/AIDS, Ebola, H1N1, Swine Flu), malaria, food insecurity, health and human rights, and global health ethics. 

GBL_HLTH 302 Global Bioethics

Global health is a popular field of work and study for Americans, with an increasing number of medical trainees and practitioners, as well as people without medical training, going abroad to volunteer in areas where there are few health care practitioners or resources. In addition, college undergraduates, as well as medical trainees and practitioners, are going abroad in increasing numbers to conduct research in areas with few health care resources. But all of these endeavors, though often entered into with the best of intentions, are beset with ethical questions, concerns, and dilemmas, and can have unintended consequences. In this course, students will assess these ethical challenges, and be provided with some tools in order to ethically analyze global health practices. In so doing, students will examine core ethical codes, guidelines, and principals – such as solidarity, social justice, and humility – so they will be able to ethically assess global health practices in a way that places an emphasis on the core goal of global health: reducing health inequities and disparities.

GBL_HLTH 303 Gender and Global Health

How do the biological category "female" and the cultural category "woman" affect patterns of health and disease for both individuals and populations? How do different cultural constructions of gender, sex, and sexuality shape public policies concerning the inequitable distribution of health and disease within the US, Africa, Japan, South America, and Europe? How do the intersections of gender, biology, sexuality, class, race, and racism produce health inequities? To address these questions, this course explores case studies of breast cancer, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, violence, substance abuse, physician-patient interactions, infectious diseases, and access to health resources.

GBL_HLTH 304 International Perspectives on Reproductive and Sexual Health

This course provides an overview of international issues regarding sexual and reproductive health. The overall approach is broad and will take into account economic, social, and human rights factors, with attention to the importance of women's capacities to have good sexual and reproductive health and manage their lives in the face of societal pressures and obstacles. Particular attention will be given to critical issues of women's health such as the demeaning of women, poverty, unequal access to education, food, and health care; and violence. Such issues as maternal mortality, sexually transmitted disease, violence, traditional practices, and sex trafficking will be discussed. This course, however, will not concentrate exclusively on women; we will also focus on international issues regarding men's sexual and reproductive health.

GBL_HLTH 305 Global Health and Indigenous Medicine

Medical pluralism-therapeutic landscapes within which multiple healing forms exist simultaneously-is largely the norm throughout many places in the world, and in those places, patients may choose healers or non-biomedical therapies instead of biomedical care, or in conjunction with this care. This seminar course explores a diversity of so-called `indigenous' medical systems and forms of healing around the world, and their significance within the places where global health initiatives are often implemented or where biomedical supremacy is assumed. Drawing on mostly contemporary examples, this course will explore healing encounters in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and also in Europe and North America that involve so-called `indigenous' or `traditional' medicine. Questions we will explore include: Why do patients choose `indigenous' medicine over biomedicine? Why do these so-called `traditional' medical practices and healers endure despite public health and biomedical interventions? How do non-biomedical therapeutic practices approach the body, illness, health, and healing? How has globalization impacted how, where, and among whom these healing forms are practiced?

GBL_HLTH 306 Biomedicine and Culture

Biomedicine (aka "Western" or allopathic medicine) is often represented as neutral and `scientific', the opposite of culture. In contrast, this course begins with the premise that biomedicine is produced through social processes, and therefore has its own inherent culture(s). The aim of this course is to expose students to the social and cultural aspects of biomedicine within a variety of contexts and countries throughout the world. Focusing on the interrelations between technology, medicine, science, politics, power and place, topics covered will include: colonialism and biomedicine, learning biomedical cultures at medical school, technology and identity, biomedicine's tourisms (medical tourism, reproductive tourism, clinical tourism), organs trafficking and the commodification of the body, and others.

GBL_HLTH 307 International Perspectives on Mental Health

This course will explore issues of mental health in cross-cultural, international perspective and examine the impact of psychological illness on the global burden of disease. Students explore the following questions: how do cultural systems of meaning and behavior affect the vulnerability of individuals within the population to mental illness and the mental illnesses to which they are vulnerable? How does culture influence the way that mental illness is expressed and experienced and how does this affect our ability to measure psychological illness cross-culturally? How do cultural factors affect the way that mental illnesses are diagnosed and labeled, and the degree to which they are stigmatized? And how do such factors affect our ability to create effective public health interventions? Finally, how do healing practices and the efficacy of particular treatments vary across cultures? By examining these and related questions, in the context of specific mental illnesses including schizophrenia, depression, and PTSD students are exposed to a unique set of ideas otherwise unrepresented in the current global health curriculum. Mental health is crucially linked to physical health, and represents an enormous global health burden in its own right. It is crucial, therefore, that global health students be introduced to central issues related to epidemiology and intervention in this area.

GBL_HLTH 308 Global Health in Human History

Over the course of human history, health and disease patterns have charged markedly. The field of paleopathology explores the history of diseases, predominantly through skeletal patterns of evidence, to understand and predict its course in the future. This area of investigation also sheds light on how the past informs our understanding of health in contemporary human societies. In particular, paleopathology addresses such key questions as: (1) How have human groups perceived disease, transmission and treatment throughout history?; (2) How have patterns of disease changed over time?; and (3) Are they that much different than what we see today? This course will explore patterns of pre- and proto-historic adaptations to human disease, health and medicine. A bio-cultural perspective on patterns of disease will provide a link between past perspectives and current realities. No explicit background in biology or osteology is required to be successful in this course.

GBL_HLTH 309 Biomedicine and World History

Global health has justifiably become a popular buzzword in the twenty-first century, but too often its multifaceted origins are allowed to remain obscure. This lecture course is designed to provide students with a historical overview of four subject areas pivotal to the field's consolidation: the unification of the globe by disease; the spread of biomedicine and allied disciplines around the world; the rise of institutions of transnational and global health governance; and the growth of the pharmaceutical industry. In order to place global health in its widest possible context, students will learn about the history of empires, industrialization, hot and cold wars, and transnational commerce. We will analyze the political and economic factors that have shaped human health; the ways in which bodies, minds, and reproduction have been medicalized; and the socio-cultural and intellectual struggles that have taken place at each juncture along the way. Above all, this course should give students tools to assess the benefits, dangers, and blind spots of existing global health programs and policies.

GBL_HLTH 310 Supervised Global Health Research

Minors are encouraged to do supervised public health research on campus and abroad. Students receive elective credits for this course only when taught abroad, however.

GBL_HLTH 311-319-SA

Courses taught abroad on IPD's Public Health programs. Courses taught abroad count as electives.

GBL_HLTH 320 Qualitative Research Methods in Global Health

This course is designed to provide global health minor students with the tools they will need in order to design, revise, conduct, and write up current and future qualitative research projects relating to global health topics. This course is experientially driven, allowing students opportunities to actually "do" research, while providing careful mentoring and engaging in in-depth discussions about ethical and methodological issues associated with qualitative approaches and with working with living humans. Students will learn methods such as: writing research proposals, research ethics, writing ethnographic field notes, doing qualitative interviews and focus groups, analyzing and writing up data.

GBL_HLTH 321 War and Public Health

This course draws on perspectives from anthropology and related social scientific fields to provide a comparative overview of the impact of armed conflict on public health and health care systems worldwide. Drawing primarily on examples from recent history, including conflicts in the Balkans, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, we will explore warfare as a crucial sociopolitical determinant of global health disparities and consider organized efforts to respond to the health impacts of mass violence. Key topics that we will consider include variations in the relationship between warfare and public health across eras and cultures; the health and mental health impacts of forced displacement, military violence, and gender-based violence; and the role of medical humanitarianism and humanitarian psychiatry in postwar recovery processes. Through close readings of classic and contemporary social theory, ethnographic accounts, and diverse research on war, health, and postwar humanitarian interventions, this course will encourage you to build your own critical perspective on war and public health anchored in history and the complexities of real-world situations.

GBL_HLTH 322 The Social Determinants of Health

This upper-level seminar in medical anthropology examines the role of social markers of difference including race, class, nationality, gender, sexuality, age and religion in current debates and challenges in the theory and practice of global health. We will explore contemporary illness experiences and therapeutic interventions in sociocultural and historical context through case studies from the US, Brazil, and South Africa. Students will be introduced to key concepts such as embodiment, medicalization, structural violence, the social determinants of health, and biopolitics. Central questions of the seminar include: How do social categories of difference determine disease and health in individuals and collectivities? How is medical science influenced by economic and political institutions and by patient mobilization? How does social and economic inclusion/exclusion govern access to treatment as well as care of the self and others? The course will provide advanced instruction in anthropological and related social scientific research methods as they apply to questions of social inequality and public health policy in both the United States and in emerging economic powers. The course draws from historical accounts, contemporary ethnographies, public health literature, media reports, and films.

GBL_HLTH 390 Achieving Global Impact Through Local Engagement

This course is designed for those global health students who are seeking ways to have an impact on global health issues by engaging in local programs and organizations which are addressing these global health challenges. Students taking this course will explore roles and programs of global and local public, private and civil society sectors in addressing specific health issues. Each student will be expected to identify a local organization or program prior to the start of the course, with which they would like to engage.

GBL_HLTH 390/ENV POL 394 Climate Change and Public Health

This course begins with an overview of the ways in which climate change has already increased public health risks. The course then explores research that provides critical links between public health and human disease and death. We will also discuss how US farming and food consumption are outsize contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, and explore solutions that lower our carbon footprint while promoting healthier habits. Finally, we will evaluate how public health systems in the US and abroad are responding to the challenges of climate change.

GBL_HLTH 390 Disability and Global Health

Disability and Global Health will address the biopsychosocial impact of disability in locations around the world. The course provides an overview of theoretical models of disability, including medical and social models, and explores the nature of complex phenomena including identity, stigma, marginalization, and empowerment. The course will take a critical stance on dominant perceptions of disability and raise questions about how societies deal with biological diversity.

GBL_HLTH 390 Global Health from Policy to Practice

This seminar explores global health and development policy ethnographically, from the politics of policy-making to the impacts of policy on global health practice, and on local realities. Going beyond the intentions underlying policy, this course highlights the histories and material, political, and social realities of policy and its application. Drawing on case studies of policy makers, government officials, health care workers, and aid recipients, the course asks: how do politics inform which issues become prioritized or codified in global health and development policy, and which do not? How do policies impact global health governance, and to what effect? In what ways are policies adapted, adopted, innovatively engaged, or outright rejected by various global health actors, and what does this mean for the challenges that such policies aim to address? Ultimately, what is the relationship between global health policies and global health disparities?

GBL_HLTH 390 HIV/AIDS in Africa

This course explores challenges and politics surrounding HIV/AIDS in Africa. It considers four major themes: the historical and contemporary methodologies and debates surrounding HIV/AIDS research and intervention in Africa; the experience of living in the context of HIV/AIDS (including issues of gender, emotion, sexuality, diverse ideas about healing); the politics of HIV/AIDS; and HIV/AIDS and health infrastructures. Questions considered during the course will include: what are the trends in research methodologies relating to HIV/AIDS in Africa? What is known or well understood about HIV/AIDS in Africa, and what as yet is not well understood? What are the politics of the disease? How have large externally-funded programs shaped the ways that the disease is thought about, treated, and experienced? What does it mean to live in the context of HIV/AIDS, whether afflicted or affected by it? How do issues such as gender roles, love, ideas about health, desires for the future, and daily livelihood struggles shape how people think about HIV/AIDS in their daily lives? Overall, students will be asked to move beyond the statistics and epidemiology of the epidemic, and adopt a critical lens in order to understand the complexities of HIV/AIDS programs and experiences in Africa, and the politics of global health interventions more generally.

GBL_HLTH 390 Infectious Diseases and Global Health

At the end of this course, students should be able to: understand the scope of infectious diseases and their contribution to the burden of global illness, have information appropriate to all persons working in global health concerning the major types of infectious diseases, and be able to summarize important public health policy decisions related to global infectious diseases. The course will cover topics such as HIV, Influenza, SARS, Malaria, Tuberculosis, and vaccine preventable diseases, among others.

GBL_HLTH 390 Managing Global Health Challenges

Disease knows no borders. Both pathogens and lifestyles move around the world and the people of every country share the risks.   The responsibility for ensuring the public health rests with governments at local, national and international levels.   Public health interventions require cooperation and partnerships at each level and with civil society organizations, corporations, businesses and individuals.  Advances in technology can significantly reduce the burden of disease and improve the quality of health and life.  To effectively address global health challenges, technology must be integrated into health systems in ways that are both appropriate and sustainable.  These interventions are affected by public policies, availability of resources and theories of public health and disease.  Existing health organizations are increasingly challenged by the scope and magnitude of the current and future threats to public health such as the AIDS pandemic; the emergence of new and more virulent infectious diseases; the threats of bio-terrorism; growing resistance to antibiotics; lack of basic infrastructure of water, sanitation and inadequate access to drugs in developing countries; and overabundance of foods and complications from affluence, leading to health problems such as diabetes in higher income countries. This course will examine the global epidemiology of these diseases and threats to the populations of the world, and the current technological and organizational strategies that have been established to respond.  A series of diseases and geographical regions will be analyzed to consider how the international community uses technology and organizes its response to current problems in global public health.  Special attention will be given to examples of effective technologies and intervention strategies.

GBL_HLTH 390 Health and Humanitarianism

This course draws on perspectives from anthropology and related social scientific fields to provide a critical overview of contemporary medical humanitarianism in historical, cultural, and socioeconomic context. Key questions that we will consider include: How and why has the health of individuals and communities adversely affected by poverty, marginalization, war, and disaster become the object of a wide range of contemporary discourses and practices of international intervention? What are the politics, historical roots, and cultural specificities of today’s boom in interest in medical humanitarian work and institutions? How does medical humanitarianism relate to and diverge from other modes of international aid and development? How is it connected to today’s global political economy, and what political, social, and institutional effects, for good or for ill, do medical humanitarian projects leave in their wake? Through close readings of classic and contemporary social theory, ethnographic accounts, and research on health-focused aid and development initiatives from across the social sciences, this course will encourage you to build your own critical perspective on medical humanitarian thinking and practice anchored in the history of the field and in engagement with the complexities of real-world situations. Case studies explore the work of organizations like Doctors Without Borders; post-war/disaster interventions in Haiti and elsewhere; and the global response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

GBL_HLTH 390/ANTHRO 390 Native American Health

Native Americans experience significant disparities in health and in access to health care. This course introduces students to Native American health by exploring the social, cultural, political, and environmental determinants influencing Native health both historically and today. This course is a reading intensive, discussion-based seminar, drawing upon research and contributions from a variety of disciplines including anthropology, sociology, history, American Indian studies, population and public health, and medicine. Some seminar topics will include Native medicine, infectious diseases and the Columbian Exchange, Federal obligations to Native communities, substance abuse, intergenerational/historic trauma, environmental health, and indigenous health globally.

GBL_HLTH 390 Refugee and Immigrant Health

This course will introduce students to the complex interaction of migration and health. Students will gain a basic understanding of the theories surrounding the movement of people within and across political boundaries. Emphasis will be placed on the link between migration and health from the perspective of several different types of migrants. We will explore some of the difficulties that receiving communities face in addressing the health needs of migrants. Also, we will look at how emigration of a large segment of the population, either abruptly or over time, affects sending communities as well. Much of the class will consist of case studies presented by different healthcare professionals working with migrant communities. Students will learn about the control and prevention of various illnesses frequently encountered by immigrants and refugees.

GBL_HLTH 390 Trauma and Its Afterlives

This course draws on perspectives from anthropology, related social scientific fields, and the humanities to provide a critical introduction to psychological trauma and its increasingly significant place in contemporary global health discourses and agendas. We will explore the history of the concept and its applications in Western literature, science, and medicine; consider the relatively recent construction of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a diagnostic category and the clinical approaches developed to treat it; and examine the politics and effects of applying the concept abroad through humanitarian psychiatry and/or global mental health projects. Key questions of the course will include: how and why has trauma become one of the most important signifiers of our era—and a key criterion of “victimhood?” What politics and debates have shaped the development and application of the PTSD diagnosis in recent decades? And how have notions of trauma and their varied applications transformed politics, suffering, and care in diverse communities around the world?

GBL_HLTH 390 Volunteerism and the Need to Help

Since the early 2000s, there has been an exponential increase in the number of foreigners volunteering in low-income communities, within orphanages, clinics, schools, and communities. This expansion has been echoed by locals, who are also providing voluntary labor in a variety of locales throughout their communities. This class explores the discourses and practices that make up volunteering and voluntourism, from the perspectives of volunteers, hosts, and a range of professional practitioners both promoting and critiquing this apparent rise in “the need to help”. What boons and burdens occur with the boom of volunteer fervor world-wide? Why do people feel the need to volunteer, and what consequences do these voluntary exchanges have on the volunteers, and on those communities and institutions that are subject to their good intentions? What are the ethics and values that make up “making a difference” amongst differently-situated players who are involved in volunteering? Given that volunteers often act upon best intentions, what are the logics that justify philanthropy and the differential standards by which volunteers are judged based on where they go and how they engage in volunteering? This class seeks out some answers to these questions, and highlights why the increased concern for strangers that undergirds volunteering should also be, in itself, cause for our concern. 

GBL_HLTH 390 Ecology of Infant Feeding

The first objective of this course is to introduce students to the many ways that babies are fed around the world, including breastfeeding, bottle feeding, and complementary (non-milk) foods. We will discuss the health and social consequences of each mode, and what the international recommendations, i.e. best practices are. The second objective is explore why there is such variety in infant feeding worldwide. These discussions will be guided by the socio-ecological framework, in which biological and psychosocial characteristics of the individual, household, community, and national policy are considered. Indeed, influences on infant feeding will be broadly considered;  we will draw on literature in global health, ethnography, evolution, and public policy. We will also consider the representation of infant feeding in popular culture and visit a local breast milk bank. The third objective is to develop critical thinking and writing abilities, using a literature review, in-depth interviews, and other research techniques to reflect on the consequences of infant feeding have for society at large.

GBL_HLTH 390 Community Based Participatory Research

This course is an introduction to community-based participatory research (CBPR). The W.K. Kellogg Foundation states CBPR is a collaborative research approach that “begins with a research topic of importance to the community and has the aim of combining knowledge with action and achieving social change to improve health outcomes and eliminate health disparities.” We will explore the historical and theoretical foundations, and the key principles of CBPR. Students will be introduced to methodological approaches to building community partnerships; community assessment; research planning; and data sharing. Real-world applications of CBPR in health will be studied to illustrate issues and challenges. Further, this course will address culturally appropriate interventions; working with diverse communities; and ethical considerations in CBPR.

GBL_HLTH 390 Methods in Anthropology/Global Health

This class will provide rigorous guidance on how one moves through the scientific process, from articulating scientific questions to answering them in a way that your audience can really relate to. We will do this using data from my ongoing pregnancy cohort in western Kenya that focuses on the consequences of exposure to HIV, food insecurity, and water insecurity for women and their young children (clinicaltrials.gov NCT02974972 & NCT02979418). Specific skills to be developed include human subjects training, formal literature review, hypothesis generation, developing analytic plans, data cleaning, performing descriptive statistics, creation of figures and tables, writing up results, and oral presentation of results. This course will be a terrific foundation for writing scientific manuscripts, theses, and dissertations.

GBL_HLTH 390 Anthropology of HIV/AIDS

This course examines HIV/AIDS from an anthropological perspective, looking critically at the history of anthropology's involvement with the AIDS crisis from the disease's discovery to the present day. It offers a broad overview of the social, cultural, political and economic factors shaping the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, and of the policy responses that the epidemic has generated in different settings. Specific topics include the shifting terrain and shape of the epidemic in different parts of the world (and perceptions of it); the factors influencing HIV vulnerability cross-culturally; and the ways in which governmental and non-governmental organizations have sought to respond to AIDS in a range of different country settings. In addition, we address international and multilateral responses to HIV/AIDS, using them as a case study that illuminates both the promises and perils of international response to health crises.

GBL_HLTH 390 History of Global Health

The history of global health is a large subject, and in this course we will touch on many, but by no means all, of what can be considered as part of this history. In addition to covering an overview of the history of global health with the goal of helping students’ place current global health actions and concerns within a historical frame, this course will hopefully instill a sense of skepticism with regard to the progress of biomedicine and global health. It will also hopefully raise students’ awareness of history as a research discipline that can (and should) enrich their understanding of global health today. By the end of this course, students should be knowledgeable: of the historical evolution and development of health interventions, in particular where and why they were developed; of the practice of biomedicine and global health interventions in relation to ideas about race, sex, sexuality, gender, class, and location; and of the foundations of global health institutions and governance. Though there will be lectures, this course is primarily run as a seminar.