300.652.01 | AY 2013-2014 - 3rd Term | 4 Credit(s)
F 8:00:00 AM
  • Contact Information
    Vicente Navarro
  • Course Learning Objectives

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

    • identify the dynamics of political and economic forces on health
    • analyze how power ---- namely class, race, and gender power --- is reproduced in society, nationally and internationally, and how power affects the health and well-being of populations,
    • Discuss the causes of underdevelopment and the reasons for the growth in social inequalities, both worldwide and within nations.
  • Course Description

    Analyzes the politics of health policy according to the dictum of one of the founders of public health, R. Virchow, “Public Health is a Social Science and Politics is Public Health in its most profound sense.” Focuses on the political reasons for the underdevelopment of health and health care in the U.S. and in the world. Looks at how economic, social, and political power are reproduced through political institutions, and the consequences on the level of health and type of health care that countries have. Critiques the role of national and international agencies such as the WTO, World Bank, IMF, and WHO in facilitating and/or hindering development of health. Also focuses on U.S. governmental policies that diminish or increase the maldistribution of power outside and within the health sector.

    Additional Faculty Notes:


    Each class session involves the following three components:


    1.             Participating professors will present material in a lecture-style format.


    2.             Debate and discussion forums, similar to Oxford-style debates in which participants defend alternative positions, are designed to stimulate exchange among course participants. Active participation is expected from all class enrollees. Examples of topics that may be raised for discussion and debate include:

    ·         What are the politics of postponing the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act?

    ·         What are the politics of exempting religious organizations from providing contraceptive coverage as mandated by the Affordable Care Act?

    ·         What are the politics of promoting natural gas s a source of clean energy, given the debate surrounding hydrofracking?

    ·         Should prostitution be legalized?

    ·         Should euthanasia be legalized?

    ·         Should marijuana be legalized?

    ·         Should the United States regulate the sale of genetically modified food?

    ·         Should media time for political campaigns be regulated?

    ·         Does the media reflect or create popular opinion?

    ·         What are the forces that call for strengthening, maintaining or eliminating affirmative action interventions?

    ·         What are the politics of current tobacco or gun control initiatives?

    ·         What are the political and social forces surrounding the debate over the embryonic cloning, public funding of abortions, capital punishment, needle exchange programs, banning of handguns?

    ·         What are the implications of bioterrorism for public health?

    ·         What are the consequences of financial crisis/economic downturn for health and healthcare?


    3.             Student workgroups: At the beginning of the course, students select a topic area of interest from the list below. Throughout the term, students then work in small groups of not more than five students to investigate the politics of the topic. In the last two class sessions, students creatively present an important aspect of the topic chosen to reflect the ‘politics’ of the issue.

    1.      The politics of mandatory sentencing in the United States for drug convictions.

    2.      The politics of exempting religious organizations from providing contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

    3.      The pros and cons from a health perspective of international sports: the case of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

    4.      The politics of the global war on drugs.

    5.      The impact of government austerity policies on the quality of life of populations.

    6.      The politics of preventing ecological disasters due to climate change.

    7.      The politics of e-cigarettes.

    8.      The politics of video games for children.

    9.      The politics of state restrictions on abortion.

    10.  The politics of drug testing requirements for federal welfare recipients.

  • Intended Audience
    masters and doctoral students
  • Methods of Assessment
    Student evaluation based on student participation in class debates and case study groups.

    Additional Faculty Notes:


    1. Individual three-page position paper on one of the topics addressed in the debate and discussion forum: 20% of final grade.
    2. Participation in debate and discussion and final presentations: 35% of final grade.
    3. Final group paper: 45% of final grade.

  • Required Text(s)

    Additional Faculty Notes:


    Recommended texts:


    Navarro, V. (ed.) "Neoliberalism, Globalization and Inequalities: Consequences for Health and Quality of Life." Baywood Publishing, 2007.


    Navarro, V. (ed.) "The Political Economy of Social Inequalities: Consequences for Health and Quality of Life." Baywood Publishing, 2001.


    Stuckler, D. and Basu, S. “The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills.” Basic Books, 2013.



    There are both required and recommended readings for each class session, all of which are posted on Courseplus. Some readings are classic articles, while others are examples of relevant current studies. The goal is to expose students to a diversity of positions in the analysis of the issues studied.

    To access the e-reserves, go to the URL: https://ares.library.jhu.edu/welch1/

  • Course Schedule

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

  • 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 topics


    Class sessions are held Fridays from 09:00AM to 12:00 PM according to the following timetable:

    9:00 to 9:45 AM Lecture
    9:45 to 10:00 AM Break
    10:00 to 11:00 AM Discussion & Debate Forum
    11:00 to 12:00 NOON Meeting of Student Work Groups

  • Contact Information(from old syllabus)

    Karina Christiansen

    Email: kachrist@jhsph.edu

    Rachael Zuckerman
    Email: rbzucker@jhsph.edu

    Vicente Navarro, MD, PhD, DMSA
    Email: vnavarro@jhsph.edu
    Office: HH 448
    Tel: 410-955-3280

  • Course Objectives(from old syllabus)

    R. Virchow, one of the founders of public health, once said that “Public Health is a Social Science and Politics is Public Health in its most profound sense.” Yet research into how political and economic forces shape the health of populations is limited. The focus of this course is on the dynamics of these political and economic forces and on the powerful effects they have on health. The course aims to analyze how power ---- namely class, race, and gender power --- is reproduced in society, nationally and internationally, and how power affects the health and well-being of populations. The course analyzes the causes of underdevelopment and looks at the reasons for the growth in social inequalities, both worldwide and within nations. Additional issues central to this course include the effect of wealth and income distributions on level of population health; the question of why some countries have national health insurance, others have national health services, and the U.S. has neither; the influences of financial and corporate capital in the health sector; the question of whether political parties make a difference; the finances of political parties; and what is meant by democracy with a look at its meaning for health. These and other topics are discussed in both formal presentations and in Oxford-style debates with active student participation. The course is an adaptation of a previous course that was twice awarded The Golden Apple. No consent of instructor required. All students are welcome.

  • 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 dss@jhsph.edu.