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Class Descriptions

Families and Health (Public Health)


Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

Pathway Associations

Community Change
Interpersonal PracticeElective (Host)
Mgmt & Leadership
Policy & Political
Program Evaluation
Older Adults
Children & FamiliesElective

Course Description

This course examines families as a primary context for understanding health and health-related behaviors. Major topics include: 1) substantive and ethical overview of families and health, 2) historical perspectives on the family, 3) demographic trends in family structure, 4) family diversity with respect to social class, race/ethnicity and culture, and sexual orientation and their implications for understanding health phenomena and family models and theories, 5) families as the context for socialization to health beliefs and practices, 6) the provision of family-based care, 7) health profiles of family members and family roles, and 8) family-based skills, programs, and practice concepts.


Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:
1. Identify and discuss models of the family in relation to physical/mental health and health-related behaviors.
2. Identify and discuss significant demographic trends and their impact on families in relation to health status, health-related behaviors and informal caregiving.
3. Identify current family forms and their prevalence and trends for various population groups. 4. Understand social status group differences (i.e., ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic status, religion) in the structure and organization and functions of families in relation to health and health-relevant behaviors.
5. Identify the major functions of the family as a context for primary health socialization, informal care and support, help-seeking behaviors and formal resource use.
6. Describe the role of family beliefs and norms in relation to health and health-related behaviors and their impact on health orientations within and across family generations.
7. Understand families within a life course framework that highlights salient tasks and goals for various stages of family development and the impact of social contexts and historical time. 8. Identify primary institutions and organizations (i.e., medical, educational, social service, public health) that interface with families, describe their orientations towards and practice models for family health.
9. Identify models of health and social work practice focused on the family and describe their similarities and differences.
10. Identify behavioral and educational intervention models aimed at improving the health of families.
11. Identify and apply the standards of critical analysis and thinking in relation to course content and activities.
12. Identify and discuss issues of social justice and privilege in relation to the health and well-being of diverse families in society and employ evidence-based research findings to support socially just practice and social activism.


Readings for the course are a combination of professional journal articles and chapters related to specific content areas, as well as writings from the popular media. The inclusion of writings from the popular media fosters awareness of the types of concerns and issues faced by contemporary families, as well as how family concerns are portrayed and framed with respect to questions such as family responsibility and autonomy, “family values,” government supports for families, as well as the government’s role in intervention and regulation of family life.
It is anticipated that some of this work will be provocative with the intention of encouraging us to consider points of view regarding families and social identity groups that may be different from our personal life experiences and knowledge base. This course provides a context within which participants can critically and actively explore a broad range of perspectives and information concerning the nature of families in the U.S. As part of your professional socialization and development, 2 the course provides you directed opportunities to develop your skills in the areas of critical thinking and writing. In order to accomplish this, we attempt to establish an environment for active and thoughtful participation in discussions and class presentations. Further, it is expected that written assignments reflect the standards of critical analysis and will be evaluated and graded accordingly. Each person must commit to participating in the course in an active manner and define specific goals for their own professional development.
Along with an emphasis on family diversity, the course will address the concepts of: 1) family demography, 2) family intervention modalities, 3) the role of different professions in providing for the conditions that support the health and well-being of families, 4) critical thinking and writing about the family, and 5) family health policy and the impacts of other types of social and economic policies on family health.
The course meets once a week on Thursdays from 1-4. The class format includes lectures and class discussions based on assigned readings and small group activities and exercises. Lectures will be kept to a minimum to allow more time for discussion. Students are responsible for being active participants and are expected to introduce relevant issues and engage in critical discussion of topics that are the focus of each class. As part of the class, participants will present and engage in critical discussion of their own emergent practice and/or research interests and approaches. It’s my aspiration that we come together as co-learners and participants and together develop an intentional co-learning and collaborative environment for sharing our current understandings and knowledge of the content area and gaining new knowledge and perspectives on families and health and our roles as health professionals.

Intensive Focus on Privilege, Oppression, Diversity and Social Justice (PODS)

The course includes substantive content that aligns with the School of Social Work’s curriculum emphasis on PODS and issues of Privilege, Oppression, Diversity and Social Justice, as well as Advanced Practice Behaviors in relation to families. This class integrates PODS content and skills with a special emphasis on the identification of theories, practice and policies that promote social justice, illuminate injustices and are consistent with scientific and professional knowledge. PODS content and skills will be applied in relation to individuals within families and across diverse families. A variety of instructional methods will be used to facilitate PODS learning. This course will support students developing a vision of social justice, learn to recognize and reduce mechanisms that support oppression and injustice, work toward social justice processes, apply intersectionality and intercultural frameworks and strengthen critical consciousness, self-knowledge and self-awareness.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are significant and pressing issues in relation to the health of families, individuals and communities that comprise the U.S. population. This course will integrate information relevant to and reflective of these concerns as we explore course content and analyze how family health is manifested across and within diverse population groups. This includes critical analysis of how societal structures, systems, laws, and values may differentially oppress, marginalize, alienate, or enhance the privilege and power of families from diverse social, religious, racial/ethnic, cultural, and economic subgroups. Our work in the course will seek to engage and enhance critical consciousness and apply intersectionality and intercultural frameworks in understanding families and health.

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