Community Health Perspectives
This course will engage you in learning about personal and environmental factors affecting your health and the health of the community at large. The primary emphasis will be on diseases, their causes, and preventive measures that can minimize their occurrence and/or effects. As we discuss these diseases, we will look at them from a historical, as well as a contemporary, perspective; further, we will explore the influence of ways of knowing and ways of thinking on how individuals and their societies deal with these matters of life and death. As we do this, please compare your own ways of knowing and thinking with those employed in these and other times, by other societies or professions, and by your fellow students. Your ability to think critically and to view community health with a historical perspective will be further strengthened as we examine underlying assumptions, discuss how current methods and concepts were derived from earlier ones, and assess the feasibility of technological options frequently presented as panaceas for contemporary health issues.
The topics in Community Health Perspectives are related to the promotion of health and the prevention of disease. An epidemiological approach will be employed when discussing each "disease," whether it affects people directly by infection or indirectly by environmental effects such as air or water pollution. This approach allows discussion of the numerous factors related to particular diseases in an integrated fashion, thus relating each "disease" to society as a whole as well as to individuals. To increase your interest and intellectual curiosity, the relevance to everyday life of various topics and associated issues will be emphasized in lectures and discussions, and the lectures will be supplemented with appropriate slides, overheads, videos and movies that help you relate what you are learning to the "real" world.
To foster your personal involvement with the subject matter, you will be encouraged to find news reports to bring to class for group discussion. Your instructor will also foster discussion by posing questions based on real-life situations, such as:
As can be discerned from this short list of questions, this course is designed to "open Pandora's box," thus increasing your intellectual curiosity and initiating your continued interest in learning about and promoting community health long after you have completed this course. This approach will also enhance your intellectual development by helping you develop your ability to apply critical thinking as you learn to analytically assess technological options frequently presented as panaceas for contemporary health issues that affect individuals and the community.
Historical perspectives will be integrated into lectures and discussions throughout the course. This will help you understand the sequential nature of discoveries and the related development of knowledge; it will also help you see how our lives have been changed by application of the principles and concepts you are learning. Further, it will help you appreciate the importance of imagination and intuition, as well as the tremendous resolve of early scientists, and will underscore the continuing need for these traits if we are to successfully address contemporary issues in community health. This will not only provide historical perspectives, it will also foster critical thinking and encourage you to explore ways in which imagination, intuition and reasoning affect development of concepts.
Introduction to characteristic ways of thinking, distinctive methods of inquiry, and fundamental conceptual frameworks in microbiology will be accomplished by integrating into each lecture examples of the application of scientific principles to logical problem solving. You will be challenged to think, as liberally educated citizens, of reasons for the current state of community health and to formulate future goals and viable strategies to achieve them as they relate to improving the longevity and quality of human life. Application of critical ways of thinking will include, but will not be limited to, exploring possible solutions to current issues within the broad scope of community health. You will be challenged to tackle a selected issue from an informed perspective, defining and analyzing the problem, then developing prioritized strategies for addressing it.
Incorporating ways of thinking and ways of knowing is especially important in community health issues because interpretation of results is profoundly affected by differences such as race, gender, geographic origin, cultural background, socioeconomic status, educational level, professional expertise, and political viewpoint. Indeed, what could be more fundamentally interwoven with ways of thinking and ways of knowing than how individuals and their societies deal with matters of life and death? You will be encouraged to evaluate not just how effective a community is (or was) in applying resources to meet needs, but also how the allocation of resources reflects its assumptions and values. In this context, an eye will be kept on costs associated with the issues, available alternatives (including their applicability, efficacy, consequences) and future needs. Opportunities for you to share and discuss personal perspectives, so you can be exposed to each other's "non-dominant" viewpoints, will be integrated into each lecture to encourage communication, to assist understanding of the often "double-edged" nature of many so-called solutions, and to help you appreciate how effective solutions demand that one explore and analyze the gray zones of "right versus wrong" policy, anticipating the consequences and complications of policy decisions
Clearly, the diversity of concepts thoughtfully interwoven to form this course will not only be challenging, but will also provide you with a coordinated learning experience. The breadth of the subject matter, as outlined in the syllabus, permits ample flexibility for thoughtful and creative pedagogy. For example, mathematics will be employed in the statistical analysis of epidemiologic data demonstrating the exponential rise or fall in incidence of selected diseases such as bubonic plague, AIDS, and lung cancer in relation to changes in behavior. Additionally, thoughtful pedagogy will be fostered by analyzing original scientific data for major causes of death in this country, mechanisms of disease where appropriate, and methodologies employed to investigate disease processes. Discussions will include present modes of prevention and treatment as well as analyses of future trends, risks, and possible courses of action that might significantly improve the longevity and quality of human life. This is the only course that deals with this important, complex subject in a way that increases your science-based knowledge.