The educational program in the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health is framed by a life course perspective, and emphasizes the critical role of social and environmental contexts in shaping health. A related theme is the powerful role of families in shaping individual and population health. Families create social and physical contexts that are experienced over the life course and across generations and that influence health in multiple ways.
Access to many resources, whether material (shelter, income, health insurance) or intangible (social capital, knowledge) is channeled through families. Many health promoting activities take place in families, including care work, such as raising children and caring for the ill or disabled, and meal preparation, eating, and hygiene. Other family activities are significant for health as well, such as household management and leisure pursuits. Interactions among family members, whether supportive or conflicted. are important predictors of well-being; because family ties endure over the life course, these effects are potent and enduring. All families experience periods of when the demands on them are more than they can effectively cope with, but chronic dysfunction is problematic for all family members.
Despite underlying similarities, family arrangements and expectations vary within societies, among societies, and change over time. These variations are important vantage points for understanding differences in health and designing interventions to protect health within all the PFRH Focal Areas. In addition, twice a year the link between families and health is the theme for the Wednesday Seminar series, and the Family Work Group sponsors periodic meetings for interested faculty and students.