Contacts | Program of Study | Application to the Health and Society Minor | Summary of Minor Requirements | Approved Courses | Advising and Grading | Health and Society Courses

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Program of Study

The Health and Society minor explores the social, political, and economic processes that shape individual and population health. Disability, experiences of illness, categories of disorder, ideals of well-being, and models of medical intervention can all vary between cultural settings and across history. Rapid changes in medicine and biotechnology create new understandings and expectations about illness, health, and well-being. At the same time, inequalities in access to care and in health outcomes across populations, in the United States and globally, have become important to conversations in policy and practice alike. At the individual level, how and where one lives may influence a range of conditions and outcomes including mental health, the onset of diabetes, and the length of life. Health is also influenced—in both positive and negative ways—by our relationships and social networks. Finally, people's life chances and health trajectories form within frameworks of health care policy and systems of provision and exposure to environments that reflect historical legacies, economic activity, and political choices. To understand health in its broader contexts, this minor encompasses a range of disciplines and methods in the social sciences, and differential emphases on theory, practice, and policy implications.

A minor in Health and Society will provide a background for medical school, the allied health professions, public health, health policy, health advocacy, the study of law with an emphasis on health, and doctoral work in a range of social science disciplines.

Application to the Health and Society Minor

College students in any field of study may complete a minor in Health and Society. The flexibility of this minor complements majors in any of the disciplines. Students who elect the minor program in Health and Society must contact the program administrator before the end of Spring Quarter of their third year to declare their intention to complete the minor. The program administrator must submit approval on the form provided by the College for the minor to a student's College adviser by the Spring Quarter of a student's third year.

Summary of Minor Requirements

The Health and Society minor requires a total of five courses, including HLTH 17000 Introduction to Health and Society, which provides exposure to a range of approaches and perspectives in the social sciences, and four approved courses designated as counting toward the Health and Society minor. Please see the Approved Courses list below.

HLTH 17000Introduction to Health and Society100
Four electives chosen from the list of Approved Courses *400
Total Units500

Approved Courses

These courses may be used to satisfy the minor course requirements. Additional approved courses will be updated annually. Please check the Health and Society website for complete listings and for information about current course offerings.

Up to one of the following:
Ethnographic Methods
Human Development Research Design
Applied Statistics in Human Development Research
Statistical Methods in Economics
Sociological Methods
Statistical Methods of Research
Any of the following:
Anthropology of Disability
The Lived Body: Anthropology, Materiality, Meaningful Practice
Magic, Science, and Religion
Disability in Local and Global Contexts
Lab, Field, and Clinic: History and Anthropology of Medicine and the Life Sciences
Reproductive Worlds
Body & Soul: The Anthropology of Religion, Health, & Healing
Anthropology of the Body
Introduction to Human Development
Inequality, Health and the Life Course
Darwinian Health
Medical Anthropology
Culture, Mental Health, and Psychiatry
Health, Medicine, and Human Rights
History of Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences
Disability and Design
Inequality and the Social Safety Net: Theory, Empirics, and Policies
Inequality: Origins, Dimensions, and Policy
Economics and Regulation of Health Care Markets: Theory and Empirics
Medical Ethics: Who Decides and on What Basis?
Introduction to Science Studies
Experiencing Madness: Empathic Methods in Cultural Psychiatry
Tutorial: Romantic Bodies: Theater in the History of Science and Medicine
Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization I
Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization II: History of Medicine I
Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization II: Early Modern Period
Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization III
History of Death
History of Medicine
History Colloquium: Medicine and Society
Introduction to Health and Society
Health in a Changing America: Social Context and Human Rights
The Politics of Health Care
Global Health Metrics
Health Economics and Public Policy
Healthcare and Healthcare Reform
Biological Clocks and Behavior
Social Neuroscience
Child Development in the Classroom
Introduction to Learning and Memory
Sociology of Human Sexuality
Urban Health
Sociology of Health and Aging
Sociology of Medicine
Topics in Behavioral and Social Sciences Relevant to Medicine
Key Issues in Healthcare: An Interdisciplinary Case Studies Approach
Health and Aging Policy
Drugs: Culture and Context

Advising and Grading

Students who elect the minor program in Health and Society must meet with the program director before the end of Spring Quarter of their third year to declare their intention to complete the minor. The director's approval for the minor program should be submitted to a student's College adviser by the Spring Quarter of a student’s third year.

Courses in the minor may not be double counted with the student's major(s), other minors, or general education requirements. Courses in the minor must be taken for quality grades, and more than half of the requirements for the minor must be met by registering for courses bearing University of Chicago course numbers.

Health and Society Courses

HLTH 12103. Treating Trans-: Practices of Medicine, Practices of Theory. 100 Units.

Medical disciplines from psychiatry to surgery have all attempted to identify and to treat gendered misalignment, while queer theory and feminisms have simultaneously tried to understand if and how trans- theories should be integrated into their respective intellectual projects. This course looks at the logics of the medical treatment of transgender (and trans- more broadly) in order to consider the mutual entanglement of clinical processes with theoretical ones. Over the quarter we will read ethnographic accounts and theoretical essays, listen to oral histories, discuss the intersections of race and ability with gender, and interrogate concepts like "material bodies" and "objective science". Primary course questions include: 1.

Instructor(s): Paula Martin     Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): This course counts as a Foundations Course for GNSE majors
Equivalent Course(s): HIPS 12103, GNSE 12103, CHDV 12103, ANTH 25212

HLTH 17000. Introduction to Health and Society. 100 Units.

Disability, experiences of illness, categories of disorder, ideals of well-being, and models of medical intervention can all vary between cultural settings and across history. Rapid changes in medicine and biotechnology create new understandings and expectations about illness, health, and well-being. At the same time, inequalities in access to care and in health outcomes across populations, in the United States and globally, have become important to conversations in policy and practice alike. This course introduces students introduces students to the social, political, and economic processes that shape individual and population health, as well as to a range of concepts and methods which social scientists use to study these processes. A requirement for students undertaking the "Health and Society" minor, the class will also serve as an introduction to the faculty researching and teaching on issues of health and society in the Social Sciences Division and beyond.

Instructor(s): Raikhel, Eugene     Terms Offered: Autumn

HLTH 20400. Health Disparities in Breast Cancer. 100 Units.

Across the globe, breast cancer is the most common women's cancer. In the last two decades, there have been significant advances in breast cancer detection and treatment that have resulted in improved survival rates. Yet, not all populations have benefited equally from these improvements, and there continues to be a disproportionate burden of breast cancer felt by different populations. In the U.S., for example, white women have the highest incidence of breast cancer but African-American women have the highest breast cancer mortality overall. The socioeconomic, environmental, biological, and cultural factors that collectively contribute to these disparities are being identified with a growing emphasis on health disparities research efforts. In this 10-week discussion-based course students will meet twice weekly and cover major aspects of breast cancer disparities.

Instructor(s): E. Dolan, S. Conzen     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): BIOS 25108
Equivalent Course(s): CCTS 20400, BIOS 25327, CCTS 40400

HLTH 21007. Clinical and Health Services Research: Methods and Applications. 100 Units.

This course will introduce the interdisciplinary field of clinically-oriented health services research with a focus on policy-related implications. Through exposure to theoretical foundations, methodologies, and applications, students without significant investigative experience will learn about the design and conduct of research studies. We will cover the integration of research within the stages of translational medicine, and how science conducted across the translational medicine spectrum informs policy through purveyors of clinical services (e.g. physicians, hospitals), government, insurers, and professional societies. We will use the examples of postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy and autologous bone marrow transplantation to illustrate pitfalls in the progression from basic science research to clinical trials leading to diffusion in clinical medicine that can complicate the creation of logical, evidence-based practice guidelines, reimbursement, and clinical practice.

Instructor(s): Greg Ruhnke     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): PBPL 23007, CCTS 21007, CCTS 43007

HLTH 21008. Health Systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. 100 Units.

Strengthening health systems is imperative to achieving lasting improvements in health. This course provides students with a comprehensive overview of health systems in low- and middle-income countries. We will learn key frameworks and tools to analyze, assess and influence health systems in these contexts. The course is organized around core components of health systems, including service delivery, human resources for health, health financing, supply chain systems, governance, community engagement and information systems. Each class draws upon contemporary case studies from a variety of low- and middle-income countries to illustrate challenges, controversies and opportunities in these contexts. We will examine historical, social and political contexts, and key international, national and local stakeholders that influence health systems presently. We will consider the impact of external shocks, such as conflict, natural disasters, and economic and political crises, on the structure and functioning of health systems. Finally, recognizing the convergence between global and local, we will situate current challenges in the U.S. health system in a global context.

Instructor(s): Veena Sriram     Terms Offered: Autumn. Not offered every year.
Prerequisite(s): Open to graduate students and third- and fourth-year undergraduate students. First- and second-year undergraduates interested in taking the course may write to the course instructor for permission.
Equivalent Course(s): CCTS 41008, CCTS 21008

HLTH 21609. Medical Ethics: Central Topics. 100 Units.

Decisions about medical treatment, medical research, and medical policy often have profound moral implications. Taught by a philosopher, two physicians, and a medical lawyer, this course will examine such issues as paternalism, autonomy, assisted suicide, kidney markets, abortion, and research ethics. (A)

Instructor(s): D. Brudney; Staff     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Third or fourth year standing. This course does not meet requirements for the Biological Sciences major.
Note(s): Philosophy majors: this course fulfills the practical philosophy (A) requirement.
Equivalent Course(s): BIOS 29314, BPRO 22612, PHIL 31609, HIPS 21609, PHIL 21609

HLTH 21750. Biological Clocks and Behavior. 100 Units.

This course will address physiological and molecular biological aspects of circadian and seasonal rhythms in biology and behavior. The course will primarily emphasize biological and molecular mechanisms of CNS function, and will be taught at a molecular level of analysis from the beginning of the quarter. Those students without a strong biology background are unlikely to resonate with the course material.

Instructor(s): B. Prendergast     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): A quality grade in PSYC 20300 Introduction to Biological Psychology. Additional biology courses are desirable. Completion of Core biology will not suffice as a prerequisite.
Equivalent Course(s): BIOS 24248, NSCI 21400, PSYC 21750

HLTH 22350. Social Neuroscience. 100 Units.

Social species, by definition, create emergent organizations beyond the individual - structures ranging from dyads and families to groups and cultures. Social neuroscience is the interdisciplinary field devoted to the study of neural, hormonal, cellular, and genetic mechanisms, and to the study of the associations and influences between social and biological levels of organization. The course provides a valuable interdisciplinary framework for students in psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics, and comparative human development. Many aspects of social cognition will be examined, including but not limited to attachment, attraction, altruism, contagion, cooperation, competition, dominance, empathy, isolation, morality, and social decision-making.

Instructor(s): J. Decety     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): ECON 21830, NSCI 21000, PSYC 22350, BIOS 24137, CHDV 22350

HLTH 22580. Child Development in the Classroom. 100 Units.

This discussion-based, advanced seminar is designed to investigate how preschool and elementary students think, act, and learn, as well as examine developmentally appropriate practices and culturally responsive teaching in the classroom. This course emphasizes the application of theory and research from the field of psychology to the realm of teaching and learning in contemporary classrooms. Course concepts will be grounded in empirical research and activities geared towards understanding the nuances and complexities of topics such as cognitive development (memory, attention, language), early assessment systems, standardized testing, "mindset", "grit", exercise/nutrition, emotion regulation, and more.

Instructor(s): Kate O'Doherty     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): EDSO 22580, CHDV 22580, PSYC 22580

HLTH 23800. Introduction to Learning and Memory. 100 Units.

This course examines basic questions in learning and memory. We discuss the historical separation and division of these two areas as well as the paradigmatic differences in studying learning and memory. We also discuss basic research methods for investigating learning and memory and survey established and recent research findings, as well as consider several different kinds of models and theories of learning and memory. Topics include skill acquisition, perceptual learning, statistical learning, working memory, implicit memory, semantic vs. episodic memory, and memory disorders.

Instructor(s): D. Gallo     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): EDSO 23800, PSYC 23800

HLTH 29635. Tutorial: Power and Medicine. 100 Units.

The marvel of modern medicine has been lauded as a great leveler of the human condition. From sanitary regimes, to the discovery of antibiotics, to anaesthesia and the development of successful surgery and lifestyle intervention, medicine has improved the lives of all humankind. However, research shows that this improvement is not uniform - that some benefit more from medicine than others. This disparity, which public health scientists and medical researchers have followed for decades, is borne of a complex set of societal factors - including socioeconomic status, race, genetic background, environment, and lifestyle. These studies show us a key feature of medicine: it does not exist in a vacuum, and one's lifespan and quality of life are as tethered to social factors as they are to scientific innovation. This class will explore the effects of uneven power systems on health and human medicine in modern history. We will explore how different peoples - of diverse racial, socioeconomic and historical backgrounds - experienced medical and sanitary regimes, and how they navigated disparities in access. Every week we will examine a particular theme in the history of medicine and explore its effects first on a regional scale in the U.S., and the following meeting in the global context. The goal in this structure is to demonstrate the diversity of experience and the complex systems that influence medical regimes.

Instructor(s): Webster, E., and Jordan, C.     Terms Offered: Spring. Spring 2020
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 25020, KNOW 28002, HIPS 29635

HLTH 29901. XCAP: The Experimental Capstone - The Art of Healing: Medical Aesthetics in Russia and the U.S. 100 Units.

What makes a medical treatment look like it will work? What makes us feel that we are receiving good care, or that we can be cured? Why does the color of a pill influence its effectiveness, and how do placebos sometimes achieve what less inert medication cannot? In this course we will consider these problems from the vantage points of a physician and a cultural historian. Our methodology will combine techniques of aesthetic analysis with those of medical anthropology, history and practice. We will consider the narratology of medicine as we examine the way that patients tell their stories-and the way that doctors, nurses, buildings, wards, and machines enter those narratives. The latter agents derive their meaning from medical outcomes, but are also embedded in a field of aesthetic values that shape their apperception. We will look closely at a realm of medical experience that continues to evade the grasp of instruments: how the aesthetic experience shapes the phenomenon of medical treatment.

Instructor(s): William Nickell; Brian Callender; Elizabeth Murphy     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): for BIOS 29209: This course does not meet the requirements for the Biological Sciences major.
Note(s): This course is one of three offered in The Experimental Capstone (XCAP) in the 2019-20 academic year. Enrollment in this course is restricted to 3rd and 4th year undergraduates in the College. For more information about XCAP, visit
Equivalent Course(s): BIOS 29209, ANTH 24360, HIPS 28350, ARTV 20014, KNOW 29901

HLTH 29971. XCAP: The Experimental Capstone - What is an Intervention (for Mental Health)? 100 Units.

What does it mean for a practice to be understood as an intervention in the domain of mental health? Interventions in mental health can be carried out with tools ranging from chemicals and electrical impulses, to words, affects, and social relationships, to organizations. They can involve acting on a range of distinct targets -- from brains and bodies to psyches and emotional conflicts to housing and employment. This course will use a focus on mental health interventions to introduce students to a range of conceptual and practical issues surrounding mental health and illness, as well as to raise a set of broader questions about the relationships between knowledge formation, practice, ethics, and politics. The questions we will ask throughout the course will include: What does it mean for an intervention to be successful? How is effectiveness understood and measured? Are mental health interventions ethically-neutral or do they contain embedded within them assumptions about the normal, the pathological, and the good life? We will think through these questions vis-a-vis readings drawn from psychiatry, psychology, and the social sciences -- but more importantly, through weekly practical and experiential activities. Each week will focus on one kind of mental health intervention, and will involve a particular kind of practical learning activity.

Instructor(s): Michael Marcangelo and Eugene Raikhel     Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): This course is one of three offered in The Experimental Capstone (XCAP) in the 2019-20 academic year. Enrollment in this course is restriced to 3rd and 4th year undergraduates in the College. For more information about XCAP, visit
Equivalent Course(s): KNOW 29971, CHDV 20971



Associate Professor, Comparative Human Development
Eugene Raikhel