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The Obesity Epidemic Problem Solving Seminar: What We Can Learn From Native American Communities

1st term
International Health
3 credits
Academic Year:
2019 - 2020
Instruction Method:
Auditors Allowed:
Yes, with instructor consent
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructors:
Summer Rosenstock

Introduction to Online Learning is required prior to participating in any of the School's Internet-based courses.


Nearly 40% of adults were classified as obese in 2015-2016, and it is projected that 59% of today’s children will be obese by the time they are 35 years old.

Minority and low-income populations have disproportionately high obesity rates. Learn from case studies addressing obesity in Native American communities that are applicable/relevant to other similarly affected populations.

Explore the multifaceted set of factors (biological, behavioral, policy, environmental and systems-level factors) that impact the obesity epidemic in the US.

Choose a community and work through a series of assignments, that build upon each other, to engage you in problem solving to address obesity.

Provides an overview of trends in obesity in the US, examines use/limitations of data from national surveys and describes how the epidemic varies geographically, by race/ethnicity and socio-economic status. Lectures and activities survey the complex, multi-faceted set of factors that contribute to the obesity epidemic and propagate disparities. Case studies in Native American communities, where some of the highest obesity rates exist, illustrate the importance of community collaboration and inclusion of culture in developing public health programs and policies. This class analyzes how the integration of knowledge, cultural norms and values, and engagement of multiple stakeholders is critical to shaping effective programs and policies. Course prepares students to identify and assess communities with obesity risk factors and propose culturally sensitive strategies to decrease obesity and eliminate underlying health disparities.

Learning Objectives:

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

  1. Explain how the obesity epidemic varies geographically, across race/ethnicity and socio-economic status, and explore why these disparities exist—with case examples from Native American communities
  2. Explain the critical importance of data in identifying opportunities for intervention as well as the limitations of surveillance systems and national surveys in developing, monitoring and evaluating policies and programs addressing obesity in the US
  3. Analyze the complex and multi-faceted set of factors that impact the obesity epidemic, including social determinants and biological, behavioral, policy, environmental and systems-level factors
  4. Identify populations most affected by obesity and community stakeholders key to improving obesity
  5. Integrate knowledge of cultural norms and values, community concerns and evidence-based practice while developing recommendations to shape policies and programs
  6. Integrate knowledge, approaches, methods, and values from multiple professions and systems to address the obesity crisis
  7. Propose strategies to decrease obesity and eliminate underlying health disparities that organize diverse stakeholders, including researchers, practitioners, community leaders and other partners
  8. Propose strategies to cultivate new resources and revenue streams to address the obesity crisis in a given community
Methods of Assessment:

55% Individual Assignments
- Identify Key Stakeholders, including Policy, Systems and Environmental Leaders, Cultural and Community
Organizations and Leaders (10%)
- Handout to Community Stakeholders Describing the Epidemiology and PSE Factors that Impact Obesity
in Chosen Community (15%)
- Op-Ed for a Newspaper in the Chosen Community Describing the Tension Between the Individual Level
Factors vs. PSE Factors Contributing to Obesity in chosen Community (15%)
- Post recommendations to the Committee on Strategies to Reduce Obesity to Discussion Forum (15%)
25% Final Group Projects
- Joint Community Presentation (30%)
15% Class Participation
- Attendance at Live Talks (attend at or assist in at least 1/2 talks) (5%)
- Comment on Others’ Strategy Recommendations (5%)
- Peer Review of Two Final Presentations (5%)
NOTE: Late assignments will be penalized 5% for the first day and 2% for each additional day that it is late.

Enrollment Restriction:

DrPH student or Bloomberg fellows in the MPH program

Instructor Consent:

Consent required for some students

Consent Note:

urse is designed for the DrPH cohort to meet specific DrPH requirements. Those who are not DrPH students must obtain instructor consent to register.

For consent, contact: