380.604.01 | AY 2013-2014 - 1st Term | 4 Credit(s)
MW 1:30:00 PM
  • Course Staff
    Robert Blum
    M. E. Hughes
    Hannah Lantos
    Meghan Bohren
  • Course Description

    The overall goal of this course is to teach students to frame public health issues using a multilevel, life course perspective. This perspective is critical for understanding the determinants of many outcomes of concern in public health. Applying it can thus improve research and practice.

    The course will begin by introducing the foundations of a multilevel, life course perspective on health: the development of health over time and the ways health is shaped by a combination of social, behavioral, psychological, and biological factors. The use of conceptual frameworks for communicating this perspective will be emphasized.
    The remainder of the course will elaborate and illustrate this foundation by highlighting:  a) key influences on health and how their effects accumulate over the life course; b) the processes by which social influences “get under the skin”; and c) multilevel life course approaches to research and practice. This material will be organized by life course stage to emphasize the cumulative nature of health causation; they will not provide comprehensive coverage of health at each stage.  
    Concurrently, students will work individually to create a conceptual framework illustrating the application of a multilevel, life course perspective to a public health outcome their choice.
  • Course Learning Objectives

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

    • Explain the foundations of a multilevel life course approach to health determinants.
    • Identify the elements of an effective conceptual framework.
    • Discuss key health influences over the life course and the pathways and processes by which these influences shape health.
    • Describe examples of health interventions informed by a multilevel life course perspective.
    • Create a conceptual framework that communicates a multilevel life course perspective on a specific public health outcome.
    • Analyze the advantages, disadvantages, and challenges of applying a multilevel life course perspective to a specific public health outcome.
  • Course Format

    Class sessions will consist primarily of lectures and small-group discussions led by students. Topics and readings for each session are shown, respectively, on the course schedule and the course reading list.

    Lectures will cover the fundamental concepts and components of a multilevel life course approach to health. Assigned readings will supplement the lectures by, for example, covering concepts in more detail or providing an example. Questions are welcomed and encouraged during lectures, with the understanding that time constraints might cause some questions to be deferred until after class.
    Discussions will center on a set of readings about a specific issue related to the previous lecture, providing an opportunity for in-depth consideration of a multilevel life course perspective. Discussion groups will be formed by course staff and will remain the same through the course. Within the constraints of class size and composition, students will be assigned to groups based on degree track (i.e., PhD/DrPH, MSPH, MPH) so that group members will share general perspectives and career goals.  
    Students also will work independently to develop a conceptual framework applying a multilevel, life course perspective to a public health outcome. The outcome must be of relevance to public health and students may not choose obesity as an outcome. Students will build their framework through a series of assignments in which they identify an outcome, draft a conceptual framework illustrating the determinants of this outcome, receive feedback on their draft from peers and course faculty, finalize their framework, and write a short description of the framework.  
  • Requirements and Student Evaluation

    Students are expected to attend all class sessions and to read all required materials. After the first class session, materials should be read prior to the start of the class for which they are assigned. Additional requirements for the course are as follows, with the percentage that each requirement contributes to students’ final grades in parentheses (out of 100 total points).

    Quizzes (28%)

    Students will complete a short on-line, self-scheduled quiz about the lecture material and associated readings for every lecture but the second (a total of 7 quizzes). The quizzes are intended to help students integrate and apply the material; the content of the readings assigned for the lecture will be emphasized in each quiz.  Quizzes will consist of no more than seven multiple choice questions.

    The quizzes are closed book: students are not allowed to consult any course materials or any other materials, including internet resources, during the quiz. To do so is a violation of the Academic Ethics Code (see below for the code). 

    Each quiz will become available on the class web site immediately after the associated lecture and will remain open for a week. Quizzes are accessed by clicking on Quizzes under Course Materials and Resources. Students may access a quiz only once so it must be completed in one sitting. Extended access to a quiz is allowed rarely and only with advance notice or in emergencies. Students will have up to an hour to complete the quiz once they have begun and will receive warning messages 15, 10 and 5 minutes before the time is up.

    The quizzes will reinforce and assess students’ understanding of the material. For this reason, the quizzes will be scored—the instructors want to know how students are doing and want students to be able to see how they are progressing. The scores, however, will not be translated into grades. All students who complete a quiz by the due date/time will receive 4 percentage points credit. 

    Discussion Sessions (20%)

    Students are expected to submit at least three written comments on the required readings prior to each discussion session, to review their group members’ comments prior to the discussion session, and to participate fully in discussion sessions.

    Students will post their comments to their groups’ wikis on the course web site (see below for instructions). To receive credit, comments must be posted no later than 1:00 PM on the day before each discussion session. Comments should not summarize the readings. Instead they should be questions, observations, critiques, etc. about whatever students found puzzling, interesting, helpful, or challenging in the readings. To jump-start their comments, students may consider the general points in the document Questions for Discussion in the Class Materials and Resources section under General.

    Prior to the discussion session, students should read the comments submitted by the other members of their group. These comments will serve as a starting point for the group’s discussion. 

    At the start of each discussion session, a student will be selected at random to lead the discussion. Using random selection (with replacement), a student may be selected to lead one, more than one, or none of the discussions. Students are strongly encouraged to read the document Facilitation Tip Sheet in the Class Materials and Resources section under General which provides guidance for effectively facilitating a group discussion.

    A faculty member or TA will attend each group session, rotating so that a group is attended by a different staff member each week. The role of the faculty or TA is to monitor the discussion to ensure that it remains on topic, to answer questions that may arise, to ensure that key points are addressed, and to evaluate group members’ comments and leadership or participation.

    Students will be graded each week on the on the quality of the comments submitted (i.e., do they reflect depth of thinking) and the quality of his or her discussion leadership or participation in the discussion. Each discussion session will be worth a total of 4 percentage points; students will receive 0, 1 or 2 points for their comments and 0, 1 or 2 points for their leadership or participation.

    Exercise for Lecture 2 (2%)

    The second half of the third class session will be devoted to an exercise designed to strengthen students’ abilities to interpret and critique conceptual frameworks. Students will work in their groups (although remaining in the main classroom). Students will receive 0, 1, or 2 points for the quality of their participation in the exercise.

    Conceptual Framework (Total 50%)

    In this series of assignments, students will develop a conceptual framework illustrating a multilevel, life course perspective on a health outcome of relevance to public health. Important details about these assignments are provided in the document LCPH Assignments on Campus 2013 in the Class Materials and Resources section under General. Please review this information carefully.

    Topic for Conceptual Framework. Although it is not required, students are strongly encouraged to submit a short paragraph stating the health outcome for which they plan to develop a conceptual framework. Course staff will review this topic to be sure it meets the criteria for the assignment. Students will receive feedback on their comments from faculty or TAs only if their topic is unsuitable. To be reviewed, topics must be submitted by 11:59 PM Thursday 12 September. Topics submitted after the deadline will not be reviewed.

    Annotated Draft of Conceptual Framework (15%). On Tuesday 1 October by 11:59 PM, students will turn in annotated drafts of their conceptual frameworks along with their reference lists (bibliographies). The references that support each of the linkages in the conceptual graphic diagram must be indicated in the diagram (these are the annotations). Students will receive feedback from course faculty on their draft, which will be graded on a standard letter scale (i.e., A: 90-100%, B: 80-89%, etc.) with a basis of 15 points.

    Conceptual Framework Workshop (5%). Students will meet in their usual Discussion Group Wednesday 2 October. They will bring copies of their draft frameworks (diagram only – no reference lists) for the members of their group. For the first half of the session, students will form pairs. One member of a pair will explain his or her framework to his or her partner and the partner will provide constructive comments and critique; then the roles will reverse. In the second half of the session, students will present their critiques to the group. Students will receive 0-5 percentage points for the quality of their participation in the Workshop.

    Final Conceptual Framework with Accompanying Description (30%). Students will turn in their final conceptual framework, accompanied by a description of no more than 7 double-spaced pages (not including the reference list) by 11:59 PM Tuesday 22 October. Like the draft, the final version will be graded on a standard letter scale (i.e., A: 90-100%, B: 80-89%, etc.) with a basis of 30 points.

    Conceptual Framework Fair

    During the last class session a Conceptual Framework Fair will be held (room TBA). Each student will bring a hard copy of his or her final conceptual framework (diagram only, 8.5 x 11”); these will be posted so that students can share the results of their efforts and learn from each others’ frameworks.

  • Policies and Procedures

    Communication and Consultation. Course staff will use email to communicate with students both individually and collectively. Students with questions should post them to the appropriate section of the web site Discussion Forum, rather than emailing TAs or instructors. The Discussion Forum will be checked and questions answered at least every 24 hours. Students should always check the Discussion Forum before posting a question to see if their question has already been asked and answered. Students should check the Discussion Forum periodically to benefit from the answers posted.

    Course Web Site. All course materials will be available on the School of Public Health CoursePlus website. General course documents (e.g., syllabus, assignment guidelines) will be posted in the Online Library under General. Other materials will be posted in labeled folders in the Online Library. Course readings are available through E-reserves; the readings for each session are listed in LCPH Reading List 2013 in the Online Library under General. In the event that an article is not yet available by e-reserves, a pdf version will be posted in the Online Library until it becomes available. Hard copies of lecture slides will not be distributed, but they will be available on the course web site by class time. 

    Discussion Sessions. Students will be notified of their group assignment in the first week of class. Groups will meet in small rooms throughout the Wolfe Street building; with only a few exceptions, each group will meet in the same room each week (a list of assigned rooms will be posted on the web site and students will be notified by email prior to the session in the case of a room change). On days when a discussion session is scheduled, students will go directly to their assigned room. 

    Submitting and Reviewing Comments on Readings. Students will post their comments on the readings for each Discussion Session to their groups’ wiki on the course web site. To access the wiki:

    • In CoursePlus, click on the Course Communications tab.
    • On the right, under Course Wikis. Click on View.
    • A wiki will be listed for each discussion group; students should click on the wiki for their group.
    • Once the wiki is open, on the left there will be pages listed for each discussion session Click on the appropriate page.
    • Once the page opens, click on the Edit tab on the top. 
    • Add comments. Students should put their names before their comments so it is clear who made which contributions. For example:

    M.E. Hughes

    • Comment 1
    • Comment 2
    • Comment 3
      • When done, scroll down and click on Update Page.

    Submitting Conceptual Framework Assignments. All conceptual framework assignments except the hard copies of draft conceptual frameworks brought to class on 2 October and to the Conceptual Framework Fair on 23 October are to be submitted to the Drop Box on the course web site. Do not email assignments to the instructors or TAs. All assignments should be submitted as a single document in pdf format. Please request assistance from the TAs early in the term if you are unsure about how to prepare a pdf for submission.

    Late Assignments. The Drop Box will accept assignments after the due date; however they will be flagged as late. Assignments will be docked half a grade for each day that they are late (a day late is defined as any time within the 24 hours after the assignment is due).

    Use of cell phones/laptops/iThings during class. Use of cell phones is not permitted in class and laptops and iThings may be used to take notes but for no other purpose.

  • Academic Ethics Code

    Students enrolled in the Bloomberg School of Public Health of The Johns Hopkins University assume an obligation to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the University's mission as an institution of higher education. A student is obligated to refrain from acts which he or she knows, or under the circumstances has reason to know, impair the academic integrity of the University. Violations of academic integrity include, but are not limited to: cheating; plagiarism; knowingly furnishing false information to any agent of the University for inclusion in the academic record; violation of the rights and welfare of animal or human subjects in research; and misconduct as a member of either School or University committees or recognized groups or organizations.

  • Course Schedule

    Please see the course Session for a full list of dates and items for this course.

  • Intended Audience
    Graduate students at the School of Public Health

    Additional Faculty Notes:

    Open to all students.

  • Prerequisites

    Additional Faculty Notes:

    No prerequisites.

  • Required Text(s)

    Additional Faculty Notes:

    The course has no textbook.  All readings will be available on the Course website.

  • Disability Support Services
    If you are a student with a documented disability who requires an academic accommodation, please contact the Office of Student Life Services at 410-955-3034 or via email at