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Health and Society

H S 301 • Intro To Health & Society-Wb

28975 • Osbakken, Stephanie
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM • Internet
CD SB (also listed as SOC 308S)
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Welcome to HS 301/SOC 308S! The principle objective of this course is to offer students a broad overview of health and illness in society from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. We will examine how social forces influence patterns of health and disease in U.S. society, considering how economic, political and structural factors shape morbidity and mortality rates, and public health policy in the U.S. We will also explore how ingrained cultural beliefs, such as racial/ethnic and gendered biases, among others, shape public perceptions of morality and public health policies. Finally, we will explore how social forces shape the very definitions of health, illness, and disease categories, and thereby medical diagnoses and treatments, and the experience of illness in U.S. society. To this end, our course readings and discussions will help us address current bioethical controversies that continue to influence our beliefs about health and illness and shape our very understandings about human rights and personhood. Our journey this term will be rigorous, but exciting! By the end of the semester you will be able to confidently recognize and analyze all of the social forces that shape health and illness in U.S. society.

For those students pursing the Health and Society major in the College of Liberal Arts, this course is required. For others, this course can be used to fulfill the social and behavioral sciences component of the university core curriculum and addresses the following four core objectives established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board: communication skills, critical thinking skills, empirical and quantitative skills, and social responsibility. This course also carries a cultural diversity flag.


By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Analyze contemporary health issues from a variety of disciplinary and professional perspectives.
  • Explain how one’s social location, the media, and economic forces shape health behaviors and outcomes.
  • Explain how social and cultural factors shape contemporary understandings and experiences of health and illness and death and dying in the U.S.
  • Critically evaluate the assumptions, motives, and evidence that individuals and groups use to make specific claims about health and illness.


Course readings consist of scholarly journal articles, book chapters, timely news articles, blog posts, and other social media posts related to health and illness. Unless otherwise indicated, these are all available on Canvas, under the Files tab, organized in folders by class day. Please read and watch all assigned course materials before arriving to class any given day. Most readings are listed below and 3 posted on Canvas early in the term, but I am likely to add additional short, newsworthy articles on health and illness that occur during the term. You’ll also find that I have assigned several TED Talks and other online videos too. Finally, near the end of the semester we’ll read one book that you are responsible for purchasing or borrowing from the library—any edition is fine. It is listed below.

Gawande, Atul. 2014. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. New York: Metropolitan.


Your final course grade will be calculated as follows:

  • Squarecap responses = 10%
  • Exam #1 = 25%
  • Exam #2 = 25%
  • Exam #3 = 25%
  • Reading Responses = 15%

Total 100%

H S 310P • Physical Activity/Society-Wb

28980 • Twito, Samuel
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM • Internet
CD (also listed as SOC 302P)
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The principal objective of Physical Activity in Society is to understand the way in which people are physically active in a social context. We will examine how social forces influence physical activity including cultural, economic, historical, and demographic considerations. The course examines physical activity on both the individual and population levels to better understand the benefits and barriers to activity in society.


By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Analyze contemporary issues in physical activity from a variety of disciplinary and professional perspectives. ●
  • Understand physical activity on both the personal/individual level as well as the population level. ●
  • Critically evaluate (and convey through writing) the assumptions, motives, and evidence that individuals and groups use in discussing physical activity.


Readings are available on Canvas. There is no required textbook for the course.


This course is organized in a lecture format with discussions throughout. Though a larger class, these discussions are an important place to connect lecture content and class readings to your related experiences, interests, and knowledge. 1


Specific details on assignments (including rubrics) are available on Canvas. Due dates are included on the course calendar (p. 3). Unless otherwise noted, all assignments are due at 11:59PM on Thursdays via Canvas. Late assignments will lose 5 points per 24 hours. Please contact me as soon as possible if there are conflicts with assignments or if you need help.

  • Activity Selection (5%) Choose a physical activity of any kind to participate in this semester. Explain why you chose your activity through the assignment in Canvas. Meet with me and discuss your activity.
  • Field Observation (30%) An integral part of this class is field observations of physical activity (at least twice weekly) as a way to connect content in lecture and readings to the real world. You will collect data as a participant observer (using autoethnography) in a physical activity of your choice - sports, dance, exercise, walking, gardening, cycling, etc. These observations are the basis for your final paper.
  • Exams (30%) There will be two non-cumulative in-class exams covering material from lecture and the readings.
  • Annotated Bibliography (5%) An annotated bibliography is due prior to your final paper.
  • Final Project (30%) The semester’s work will culminate in a project wherein you combine your field observations with scholarly sources you find to create a larger narrative about how your physical activity functions in society. Due Tuesday, May 12th.

Grade Disputes: Any dispute of any grade from assignments, exams, or papers must be made within one week of the grade being posted or it will not be considered. Please reach out to us early if there are any problems with completing assignments

H S 340 • Cancerland-Wb

28990 • Osbakken, Stephanie
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM • Internet
CDWr (also listed as SOC 320C)
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This course has several objectives. First, students will learn to step beyond their personal understandings of cancer to cultivate a more sociological and analytical approach to understanding this complex disease. By the end of the term, students will be able understand the cultural and structural forces that shape the occurrence, treatment, and experience of cancer in the U.S. The second goal of this course is to develop students’ writing skills. Through various writing assignments, students will cultivate an effective argumentative writing style as they critically evaluate cancer research and the social factors that influence how the disease is understood, treated, and depicted in popular culture. Students will spend considerable time honing their own writing, learning about the importance of revisions as they engage in rigorous edits of their peers’ work. The peer review process not only familiarizes students with basic editing skills, but also encourages collaboration and teamwork. Finally, by acting as a codiscussant once during the term, students will gain experience and confidence leading a discussion on a course topic of their choice.


Course materials include various articles and book chapters and video links, most of which are available on Canvas. Please note that I reserve the right to remove, add or substitute assigned materials. There are also two required books for the course.

  • Mukherjee, Siddhartha. 2010. The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Kalanithi, Paul. 2016. When Breath Becomes Air. New York: Random House.


To successfully complete this course, you must read all assigned texts before each class, attend and participate regularly, co-facilitate a discussion once during the term, complete and submit assignments on time, and present on your research topic at the end of the semester.

Attendance (5%)

Attendance is mandatory in a discussion-based, writing intensive class. You can miss two classes without penalty during the term. Absences #3, #4 will result in a 10-point deduction from this portion of your grade and a loss of participation points for the day. For absences #5 and beyond, I will deduct 10 points from your final course grade for each additional absence.

Participation (20%)

Students are expected to have read all assigned readings before each class period and participate actively and respectfully in class. Students are also required to regularly respond to blog-post prompts on our discussion board. There will be a total of 16 prompts posted, and you will need to 3 thoughtfully respond to at least 12 prompts during the semester. It is also a good idea to write your own questions on the readings. Come to class willing to share your questions and actively participate in our discussions.

Leading Discussion (10%)

Students will be asked to co-facilitate a discussion once during the semester. I will pass around a sign-up sheet on 1/28 so you have plenty of time to plan with your co-discussant. I will also discuss my evaluation guidelines in advance so that you are aware of my expectations. Your attendance on the date you are leading discussion is MANDATORY.

Paper #1 (10%)

Students will write a 2-3 page (double-spaced) short paper. 

Paper #2 First draft (15%)

Students will write a 5-page paper (double-spaced) that applies course concepts and theories to an analysis of a specific social or cultural issue relating to cancer research or treatment.

Peer Review Reports (5%) Students will provide peer-review feedback for Paper #2. This will entail providing marginal comments and also writing a one-page peer review report for two or three of your studentcolleagues. I will distribute detailed guidelines about this process.

Paper #2 Revised Draft (20%)

After receiving my feedback, you will revise Paper #2 and resubmit it.

Paper # 3 (15%)

Students will write a 5-page paper (double-spaced) that applies course concepts and theories to a social or cultural issue relating to the experience of cancer.

Overall semester averages will earn the following letter grades:

  • 93-100: A
  • 90-92.9: A
  • 87-89.9: B+
  • 83-86.9: B
  • 80-82.9: B
  • 77-79.9: C+
  • 73-76.9: C
  • 70-72.9: C
  • 67-69.9: D+
  • 63-66.9: D
  • 60-62.9: D-
  • 0-59.9: F

H S 340 • Econ Sociology Of Hlth-Wb

29000 • Palmo, Nina
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM • Internet
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What is this course about?

This course will give you an up-close view of how health care and health insurance work, and don’t work, in the U.S. today. This course involves a service-learning project with a local nonprofit organization, Foundation Communities. You will become a Certified Application Counselor in the insurance marketplace and help real clients enroll in insurance plans. To ground this practical experience in academic knowledge, we will use classroom time to learn about how the current state of health insurance and health care came to be, and how we could improve it.

Why is this course important?

This course provides an opportunity to gain practical, real-world knowledge of the challenges facing Austin residents today as they navigate the world of health insurance and health care. Understanding how the health care system works on a practical level and on a policy level is something that we all need to know – whether we are future physicians, other experts, or patients.

H S 340 • Soc Ineq & Health In U.s.

28985 • Musick, Marc
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM MEZ B0.306 • Hybrid/Blended
CD (also listed as LAH 350, SOC 321K)
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This course examines patterns of health and illness in the US and their possible causes.  By focusing on societal structures and demographic trends, the course is able to uncover the ways in which American society and social interactions shape health outcomes across the adult population.  Some attention in the course is also devoted to the healthcare system in the US and the ways in which it leads to certain population health outcomes.  The course is designed with experiential learning in mind, thus it requires students to undertake projects that help them better understand how health outcomes are patterned in the community around UT Austin. 

Potential Readings

Healthy People 2020.  US Government.

Mama Might be Better off Dead.  Laurie Kaye Abraham

The Social Transformation of American Medicine.  Paul Starr.

Ideas about Illness.  Uta Gerhardt.

H S 378 • Seminar In Health & Society

29025 • Swearingen, William
Meets M 4:00PM-5:00PM WAG 420 • Hybrid/Blended
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Please cconsult with the academic advisor for more information.

H S 378 • Seminar In Health/Society-Wb

29015 • Palmo, Nina
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM • Internet
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Please cconsult with the academic advisor for more information.

H S 378 • Seminar In Health/Society-Wb

29020 • Osbakken, Stephanie
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM • Internet
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Please cconsult with the academic advisor for more information.