Social & Behavioral Sciences
View courses in
SPH SB 710: Nutrition and Public Health
This course examines the principles of public health nutrition and explores the nutritional status of individuals throughout their life cycle. Faculty focus on nutrition assessment, the development of nutrition policy, the role of diet in obesity and chronic diseases of an affluent society, nutrition program planning, and national and local nutrition surveillance. In addition, the course reviews the components of administering nutrition services on a local, national, and international level. The impact of overall socioeconomic development on nutrition and health status, infectious disease, and public health policy is considered. No previous coursework in nutrition is required; a basic introduction to nutrition is provided.
SPH SB 721: Social and Behavioral Sciences for Public Health
Graduate Prerequisites: Students who take SPH IH720 may not take SB721 for MPH degree credit.SB concentrators must take this course regardless of citizenship status.
This survey course introduces MPH students to social and behavioral sciences within the context of public health scholarship, research, and practice. The basic aim of the course is to teach students the social and behavioral science fundamentals (principles, theories, research, and techniques) that can and should be used to inform the identification, definition, assessment, and resolution of public health problems. The course focuses on providing a framework for considering the important questions in a thoughtful and evidence-based manner such that students will be able to critically analyze public health problems and determine the appropriate social and behavioral sciences principles, theories, and research that will be most effective and useful in intervening to address that particular public health problem. The course considers alternative paradigms for understanding and intervening to resolve public health problems in a critical way, drawing heavily upon the public health literature in which these various perspectives have been vigorously debated and discussed.
SPH SB 730: Stress as a Public Health Problem
Research on the impact of excessive psychological stress indicates that it plays a significant role in physical and psychological health, in rising incidence of substance use and violence in communities, in increased absenteeism and decreased productivity in the work place, and increased medical costs. This course examines the impact of psychological, biological, environmental and social stressors on health, illness, health-risking behavior and its economic and public health consequences. Education and intervention strategies and programs involving community awareness and participation are evaluated. Through literature review, lecture and discussion, students examine the field and explore its application to health care and public health.
SPH SB 732: Nutrition, Aging, and the Elder Population
Graduate Prerequisites: .
This course explores the nutritional needs of elderly adults and describes the various physiological, psychological, and social changes that occur with aging that affect dietary and nutritional status. The techniques of nutritional assessment of elders in both the community and clinical settings are discussed. The nutritional needs of older adults are linked with recommendations designed to maintain optimal health into older age. Students learn about the major federal and state nutrition programs that target elders and are able to identify strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in services. Preparation of a brief policy memo on a topic of current interest and/or controversy related to elderly nutrition is required.
SPH SB 733: Mass Communication and Public Health
Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721.
This course explores the use of mass communication as a tool for health promotion, both domestically and internationally. The course examines the role of the mass media in shaping a social and cultural environment that affects the public health , and then reviews a range of mass media strategies available to the practitioner--public communication campaigns, social marketing, public relations, and media advocacy. Students discuss the strengths and limitations of each approach and gain experience in applying these strategies to specific public health problems. Students work in groups on a final project in which they develop and present a proposal for a plan for a health promotion initiative that uses mass media.
SPH SB 740: Applied Research Methods for Social Determinants of Health
Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721, completed or concurrent
This course is an investigation into the conceptualization, operationalization, measurement, assessment, analysis, and evaluation of socially and culturally-based determinants of public health problems for the purpose of conducting public health research and developing public health interventions. More specifically, students will critically evaluate existing research evidence, develop an understanding of the constructs, variables, hypotheses and conceptual models for various social factors that influence health; review and evaluate the measurements of selected social factors; interpret the impact of these factors on public health outcomes, and offer solutions in the form of interventions that develop protective strategies that would minimize negative effects of social factors. Students will be able to apply this understanding of social behavioral and cultural factors to both domestic and international settings by the use of specific case studies.
SPH SB 750: Preventing Intimate Partner Violence
Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721 recommended.
This course provides an introduction to the topic of intimate partner violence with a focus on how public health practitioners can contribute to its prevention. Lectures will cover teen dating violence, child witnesses to violence, batterer intervention, the domestic violence shelter movement, elder abuse, the intersectionality of oppressions framework and partner violence prevention, and the overlap between child abuse and partner violence. Students will receive information about current laws and controversies related to partner violence prevention. This course is primarily focused on partner violence in the U.S. Students who complete the course will be prepared to undertake research assistant, health department, or community-based work in the area of partner violence prevention and advocacy. Teaching methods include lectures, small group discussion, case analyses, the use of multimedia, and interviews with providers. National and state experts in the field of partner violence prevention present guest lectures.
SPH SB 751: Sexual Violence: Public Health Perspectives in Intervention and Prevention
This course provides an introduction to the topic of sexual violence with a focus on how public health practitioners can contribute to its prevention. Students will have the opportunity to interact with a victim of sexual violence, learn about approaches to sex offender treatment, and receive information about current laws and controversies related to sexual violence prevention. This course is primarily focused on sexual violence in the U.S., although one or two lectures on topics such as women trafficking and sexual violence as a weapon of war may be presented. Students who complete the course will be prepared to undertake research assistant, health department, or community-based work in the area of sexual violence prevention and advocacy. Teaching methods include lectures, small group discussion, case analyses, the use of multimedia, and interviews with providers. National and state experts in the field of sexual violence prevention present guest lectures. NOTE: Students with an interest in this course need to consider their own capacity to focus intensively on the difficult subtopics that will be covered in detail, including child sexual abuse.
SPH SB 752: Understanding Pornography: A Public Health Perspective
Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721
This course will review the history of sexually explicit materials and how these materials impact individuals and societies. Particular attention will be paid to policies aimed at regulating pornography production, dissemination and consumption. As public health professionals, we must understand clearly "what counts" as pornography, who makes, distributes and consumes it, for what reasons, and which health outcomes (either positive or negative) may be associated with its production or use. This class is not rooted in either a "pro-pornography" or "anti-pornography" perspective. The object of study has been analyzed by feminists and non-feminists, academics and sex workers, politicians and psychologists. Some argue that pornography is an opportunity for subversion, resistance, self-discovery, self-expression and the exercise of freedom. Others argue that it degrades interpersonal relationships, distorts information about sexuality and sexual health, contributes to serious international problems such as human trafficking, and normalizes oppression. Each viewpoint has adherents and detractors; our job as scholars is to sift through each argument and attempt to arrive at the most logical position for public health professionals to adopt. Important Information: Although this is a course about pornography, students will not be required to view any sexually explicit materials in order to participate fully in this course. (NB: Just as a course on tobacco control does not necessitate that students try smoking cigarettes). To be specific, no "hardcore" video or photograph pornography will be shown in class or assigned as homework.
SPH SB 760: Health of LGBT Populations
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals live in every county of the United States and are recognized as underserved minority populations. In this 4-credit course students will examine the health of minority populations who are marginalized due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. You will identify and practice techniques for measuring LGBT populations as well as ways to better recognize the assets that are found within these communities. Today, data on these populations are increasingly collected in the context of public health surveillance and also some health care facilities have begun recording these data in medical records, yet access to these data is still mostly restricted. While recognizing the limitations of available data sources, you will make use of publicly available data to characterize quantitatively and qualitatively the diversity of LGBT populations. Course readings, class lectures, and exercises will be used throughout the course to analyze and discuss the micro and macro determinants of LGBT populations' health. You will build skills by utilizing secondary data, performing a content analysis, conducting a key informant interview, and by producing a final paper, which analyzes the literature on a LGBT health topic of their choice for the purpose of proposing next steps in research or program development for the LGBT community.
SPH SB 780: Mental Health and Public Health: A Social and Behavioral Sciences Perspective
Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721
This course provides an investigation into mental health and mental illness from a public health perspective. It covers the concepts of mental illness versus mental health, describes the burden of mental illness, and discusses the etiology, diagnosis, course and treatment of prominent mental illnesses (such as schizophrenia, depression,post traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and addiction). In addition, specific examples and cases will address international mental health, as well as domestic racial and ethnic disparities. Taking a social and behavioral sciences perspective, the social consequences of mental illness, such as stigma, isolation, and barriers to care will be explored and their impact on access to care, rehabilitation and recovery considered. Students will also be introduced to the complex interplay of multiple risk, protective and preventive factors with a focus on social factors. The effectiveness of the current system of services and the role of public health and public health professionals will be discussed. Student assignments and projects will develop skills that apply knowledge to understand issues of mental illness and encourage behaviors that promote mental health within communities.
SPH SB 785: Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use: People, Populations and Policies
Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721 or GH720
Alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Because virtually everyone has some experience with ATOD use themselves or in others, much about this topic is thought to be common knowledge, but in this course students will be surprised at the depth of scientific knowledge known that is not widely understood, in part evidenced by common policies and approaches that are not evidence-based. This course asks students to critically examine current ATOD research, intervention and prevention practice, and policy with the goal of acquiring skills with which to improve strategies to reduce ATOD-related consequences, illness and injury. Specifically, students will become well-versed in models for understanding ATOD use; gain knowledge in ATOD use across multiple populations and throughout the lifespan; understand contemporary public health debates regarding ATOD research and prevention strategies; learn how to address the deficiencies in current public health approaches to ATOD use; and be able to apply knowledge to emerging public health problems.
SPH SB 800: The Obesity Epidemic: Moving from Individual to Environmental and Policy Approaches for Promoting Physical Activity and Healthy Eating
This course explores environmental and policy approaches to promote physical activity and healthy eating, two behaviors strongly associated with obesity prevention. Students will gain knowledge in this topic by examining the literature and relevant strategies. Upon completion,students will be able to develop strategies to promote population wide physical activity and healthy eating.
SPH SB 806: Communications Strategies for Public Health
Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721 and assessment selective for SB concentrators. For MCH concentrators, MC725.
This core course focuses on the development and execution of a planned communications strategy for a public health organization that is responsible for a community-based intervention. The course also features a review of basic theory and research that can inform the health communications process. SB806 uses practice-based learning to teach course competencies and skills. Specifically, students will are assigned a public health problem faced by a public health agency, and consult with the public health agency throughout the semester. Working through a sequence of written assignments, students conduct a literature review to inform an evidence-based and innovative intervention plan, and then prepare several materials to execute a communications strategy in support of the intervention. Communication pieces may include, but are not limited to: press release, letter to the editor, pitch letter with infographic, editorial, social media, video, and press event. Writing workshops in class, skill-based exercises, and consultations with the public health agency and instructor are designed to give students ideas for their projects, interim feedback on their written assignments, and tools necessary to successfully develop and present a product that can be implemented by the public health agency. Students present their final project to the class and public health agency partner.
SPH SB 808: Merging Clinical & Population-Based Perspectives in Public Health Practice: Tension & Resolution
Clinicians and public health professionals rarely share common definitions of health or illness, and they often have competing interests, conflicting agendas, and different strategic approaches to health care problems. This course explores contradictions and tensions between two perspectives that limit the effectiveness of both personal medical care and public health activities. The course features interactive discussions and readings that address both the public health and medical/clinical responses to public health challenges: the Opioid Overdose Epidemic, Community Violence, Humanitarian Disasters and Mass Casualties, Injury prevention/Falls, point of care Emergency Department education and testing for HIV and HCV, and immigrant and refugee health and the role of interpreter services. Students observe population-based programs within an emergency department setting and explore the policy implications of collaborative, integrated models.
SPH SB 813: Web-based Health Communication Strategies for Public Health Interventions
Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721
This course covers key health communication principles for designing and critiquing digital health behavior change interventions. Students work in small groups to conduct formative research to plan a public health intervention website and prototype. Key deliverables include a comprehensive strategy document, a website diagram, a website prototype and usability testing results. Course topics include defining an audience, setting clear objectives, applying health behavior theory concepts, competitor analysis, using story as a health communication strategy, designing for accessibility, conducting usability testing, and working with practical user-centered design approaches (such as affinity diagramming and user personas). Although the emphasis is on the intervention planning process and not technology, a series of hands-on computer labs introduce students to basic online content creation tools and provide instruction and support for creating a simple website prototype. No technical background is necessary.
SPH SB 818: Qualitative Research Methods
Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721 and EP713, either concurrent or completed
This course is designed to provide students with experience in the use and application of qualitative research methods for public health activities including needs assessments, research studies, intervention strategies, and program evaluations. Students are introduced to the quantitative versus qualitative data debate in social science research. Emphasis is placed on the practice of qualitative research and each student participates in the design and conduct of a project. Throughout the semester students' field proposals, problems, process, and progress are discussed as are methodological issues including objectivity, sampling, theoretical perspectives, data collection, ethics, and data analysis. Due to the intensive nature of the class, it is not suitable for auditors.
SPH SB 820: Assessment and Planning for Health Promotion
Graduate Prerequisites: SB721 and the epidemiology MPH core course requirement. Epidemiology maybe taken concurrently. For MCH concentrators, MC725.
This course will introduce students to neighborhoods of Boston and provide opportunities for acquiring and practicing community assessment skills. We address the fundamental question: How do public health scientists and practitioners demonstrate that a health problem in a community warrants intervention? Students will learn to consult the literature, large data sets (such as the U.S. Census, hospitalization data, vital records, and national survey data) and geographic/mapping data, as well as conduct key informant interviews and site visits to assess health promotion needs and assets of a specific neighborhood and groups. The course will culminate in the production of a community needs assessment report integrating the various sources of data gathered over the course of the semester.
SPH SB 821: Intervention Strategies for Health Promotion
Graduate Prerequisites: SB721 and assessment selective. For MCH concentrators only, MC725.
This course focuses on strategic planning for public health practice. Social science and maternal and child health approaches are included. Working through a sequence of written assignments, students develop a strategic plan for a program intervention designed to change health behavior or a health outcome. Work in class and during individual consultations is designed to give students practice with elements of the strategic planning process, ideas for their project, and interim feedback on their written assignments.
SPH SB 822: Quantitative Methods for Program Evaluation
Graduate Prerequisites: The epi & Bio MPH core requirements & SB721. For SB concentrators, the assessment and intervention selectives.
This course provides an overview of the major principles and methods associated with systematic evaluation of public health programs. The overall goal is to help students develop skills needed to plan, conduct, critique, and use evaluation research. The course covers: program logic models; formative, process and outcome evaluations; internal, external, validity; threats to internal validity; experimental and quasi-experimental designs; probability and non-probability sampling; questionnaire development; operationalization of variables; statistical analysis strategies; power analysis; and analysis of evaluation design.