About The Course
Welcome Message

Welcome to the CoursePlus Web site for INTEGRATING SOCIAL AND BEHAVIORAL THEORY INTO PUBLIC HEALTH (410.618.01), a course offered by the Department of Health Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Welcome to ISBT for 2012.

Course Description

Introduces students to the ecologic framework of health behavior that integrates perspectives from anthropology, sociology, and cognitive sciences. Uses a combination of lectures, readings, discussions, and small group exercises to make the case that health behaviors often must be viewed simultaneously at multiple ecologic levels in order to craft effective interventions. Includes discussion of socio-economic status, culture, and race at the macro ecologic level, social networks and social capital at the mezzo level, and influences on rational decision-making at the micro level.

Additional Faculty Notes:

Course methods include brief lectures, writing and workshopping reflections on your own health behavior changes, and small group discussions and group exercizes.

Course Learning Objectives

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Explain the role of theory in explaining health behavior and behavior change, including its application to public health interventions
  • Take a challenging health behavior and describe from multiple theoretical vantage points the forces potentially shaping it or offering opportunities for interventions
  • Assess how constructs from different theories relate to each other and select appropriate theories based on audience characteristics, health issues, and desired behavior change
  • Apply different theories to interventions, depending on the ecological levels at which the problems are framed and solutions proposed

Course Time

Mon Wed   3:30 PM to 5:20 PM

Course Faculty

Additional Faculty Notes:

No prerequisites, but students should be prepared to do graduate-level work.  Students should be comfortable reading papers from the scientific literature.  Given the range of readings, it is not expected that all of the methods details of each paper will be familiar, but students should be willing to get through these sections and then concentrate on the nature and significance of the findings as they relate to the course.

Intended Audience

Master's and doctoral students in HBS; MPH students interested in health behavior

Course Topics

Major areas covered include cognitive models of health behavior, bounded rationality, social influences on health and health behavior (proximal and distant), race, gender, culture, social inequality, and structural influences. 

Grading Policy & Grading Restrictions

Grading Policy: Written mid-term and final exams, small-group projects

Grading Restrictions: Letter grade

Additional Faculty Notes:


Grades will be determined as follows:


  • Course grades are based on the anchor that an average, competent performance responsive to an  assignment’s directions is equivalent to a grade of B.  “A” work requires going beyond the lecture material and required reading to either involve supplemental material or to provide an analysis that is particularly thoughtful or detailed.  Not following assignment directions will result in reduction in grades.  This is not because we value conformity, but out of a sense of fairness to students who do try to answer within the parameters of what they are asked.  

Students for whom English is not a first language should consult the instructor if they feel that this will have an impact on their written work and so that we can make an appropriate accommodation – be assured that we are sympathetic to this situation.  We do expect that typed materials will at least have been checked electronically for spelling, but there will be no penalty for grammar errors attributable to lack of language proficiency. The main factors that will be used to evaluate written assignments (take home as well as in class) include:

  • Clarity/organization of ideas
  • Use of material from class or reading to explain and support ideas (properly cited as needed)
  • Richness of explanation/description – getting beyond a single explanation; in particular, the ability to compare and contrast views suggested by competing theories or perspectives
  • The grading scale is generally that 90-100 is equivalent to an A, 80-89 = B, 70-79 = C.  Grading is not “curved.”  In theory, it is possible for the entire class to get an A.
  • Evaluation components
    • Mid-term and final exams, for which you will have the entire class period.  Open book, short answer questions based on the assigned reading.  The hope is that if you are current with the reading you will not have a lot to do to prepare for the exams; questions will ask for some synthesis but knowing where things are in the readings will allow you to local source material easily.  Each of the exams will be worth 25% of the final grade.
    • Written assignments. There are two short paper assignments. The first is worth 15% of the final grade and the second (longer) is worth 35%. Rubrics are provided for evaluation of the two assignments.
    • There is no formal mechanism for assessing class participation, but in the event of a borderline final grade, the extent of attendance or participation may be a factor deciding on how the final score should be rounded.
Textbooks Required

All readings are posted on "Course Plus"

Administrative Contact

Lawrence Wissow
E-mail: lwissow@jhsph.edu