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Methods for Assessing Power, Privilege, and Public Health in the United States

East Baltimore
4th term
4 credits
Academic Year:
2021 - 2022
Instruction Method:
Class Times:
  • M W F,  10:30 - 11:50am
Auditors Allowed:
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructor:
Lorraine Dean
Frequency Schedule:
Every Other Year
Next Offered:
2023 - 2024

At least one semester of graduate-level biostatistics. One introductory social epidemiology course *or* with the instructor’s permission, you may view selected pre-recorded lectures from the Fundamentals of Social Epidemiology course. The requisite courses may have been completed at another institution.


Illness and health do not happen in a vacuum, nor are they distributed randomly throughout society – they are structured by power and privilege. What are the strengths and limitations of the methods used to study these forces and their impacts on health? How do these structures influence our interpretation of data and how does this translate to the real world? This service-learning course allows you to reflect on your own privilege as a scientist as you integrate social epidemiology concepts with quantitative epidemiological skills and apply them to a data-driven health project. A community-based organization (CBO) will use your final product to guide their activities.

Discusses emergent health issues and how the choice of measures for power, privilege, and inequality influences results in epidemiological research. Challenges students to reflect on how their positions of privilege influence the interpretation of data and public health practice. Apply epidemiology research skills to develop and execute a data-driven project on a real-world health problem that is presented to, and used by a community partner.

Learning Objectives:

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

  1. Recognize structures of power and privilege in the US and how that impacts health
  2. Critique quantitative and qualitative methods used to evaluate structures of power and privilege
  3. Learn and critique the ways in which inequality is measured and how measures influence interpretation of data
  4. Identify and reflect on their role in structures of power and privilege, and how that influences epidemiologic practice (approach to analysis and interpretation of results)
  5. Witness how inequality influences communities and experience ways to include community voices as equal players in addressing social problems that influence health
  6. Determine the role of data in a community-based organization.
  7. Interpret community-based health data in the context of structures of power and privilege
Methods of Assessment:

This course is evaluated as follows:

  • 35% Final Project
  • 20% Reflection
  • 20% Midterm
  • 25% Participation

Instructor Consent:

Consent required for some students

Consent Note:

Consent required for any students who have not met prerequisites (i.e. not have taken a social epidemiology course) but are interested in taking the course.

For consent, contact:

Special Comments:

This is a service-learning course, so will include up to 3 trips to the community partner for orientation, observation, and presenting the final data product.