The program is offering the following three courses for Spring Semester 2018 (January–May):
Impacts of Economic Inequality on Women’s Health
Domestic and global economic inequality place significant numbers of people at high risk for health crises even as they are denied access to care. This course investigates the “pathogenic” aspects of economic inequality. It examines how systems of unequal resource distribution contribute to wide disparities of health risk, access to healthcare, and clinical outcomes. In addition, the affects of global trade and transnational migration on health costs, healthcare delivery systems, and the availability of healthcare professionals are explored. By tracing links between macro-economic policies and access to healthcare, the course analyzes pathologies suffered in the context of structural violence.
The Growth Imperative, Global Ecology, and Women’s Health
In the last quarter century, the premise of the possibility of endless growth for the purpose of unlimited capital accumulation has met the inevitable challenges of resource exhaustion on a global scale and its human consequences. Markets and technological innovation are inadequate to solve the resulting environmental crises. Health consequences include illness caused by toxic industrial byproducts, injury from resource extraction processes such as nuclear fission and deep–water oil drilling, manifold health hazards of violent conflict over control of scarce resources in postcolonial states, and dangers that attend climate change. This course addresses externalized business costs paid in the currency of human health.
Debt, Crisis, and Women’s Health
Growing national debt has become a feature of increasing numbers of nations over the past 60 years, heightening dependence on international financial institutions and restricting the sphere of freedom of national policy makers. Healthcare provision has been subjected to severe cuts as nations struggle to meet their debt obligations and stabilize their economies. Framing ongoing global economic crisis as a consequence of excess rather than scarcity, this course unsettles the conventional moral calculus of credit and debt, exploring the relationship between debt and economic crisis, and examining the impacts of austerity policies on women’s health. Austerity refers to policies that reduce public benefits and services, such as healthcare and education, meant to force countries into meeting their debt obligations. Comparing experiences of nations in various regions of the world, the course considers the effects of continued borrowing to pay debt interest on humanitarian concerns. In particular, the course analyzes who suffers for the sake of debt repayment and the magnitude of that gendered suffering in highly leveraged societies.
Future Course Offerings
Women’s Global Health Movements
This course identifies the global institutions and policies that most impact health globally. Students will discern how women’s non-governmental organizations have attempted to transform existing institutions and policies of global health governance such that people everywhere can lead healthier and more dignified lives. The course begins by detailing the colossal global health problematic to which women’s health movements respond, encouraging students to forge new ground by drawing connections among institutions of global governance and women’s health. The course culminates with a close examination of tactics utilized by women’s organizations around the world to social and economic conditions that attempt to actualize the dictum that healthcare is a human right, as stated in numerous international human rights instruments.
Health Consequences of the Global Trade in Pharmaceuticals
This course explores the political economy of the global pharmaceutical industry. Students will examine ethical issues such as: disproportionate investment in drugs for minor health problems while serious diseases affecting the poor and other marginalized groups remain insufficiently studied; inadequate vaccine development and manufacture; restrictions on the distribution of life-saving generic drugs in third world countries; overuse of antibiotics and the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria; and the role of the pharmaceutical lobby influencing healthcare.
States of Healthcare: Comparative Global Perspectives on Healthcare and Political Systems
This course begins from the premise that there are deep political and economic reasons that so many contemporary political debates and democratic social movements pivot on universal access to healthcare.
It tests the hypothesis that the form and function of a political system—including the strengths and weaknesses in democratic and anti-democratic states—can be evaluated through analysis of a nation’s healthcare system(s). Through a global comparison of the relationship between political contexts and the organization of healthcare institutions, the course highlights healthcare as an under-recognized arena of political engagement where citizenship is constructed and where the foundations of a state’s political forms and ideologies are rooted, realized and/or undermined. In this regard studious assessment of healthcare systems provides a litmus test of the day-to-day material reality of political systems; offering a life and death framework from which to differentiate political ideals and formal political structures from how diverse political systems are actually lived and practiced.
Gendered Professions and the Transnational Care Economy
This course examines how nursing and other women-dominated professions lie at the heart of what is known as the “care economy.” Involving work that requires intensive physical labor, person-to-person communication, and spatial proximity, the intimate nature of care work resists mechanization. In contrast to the production of commodities, the highly personalized labor of care is driven by human need rather than profit maximization. Focused on the cultivation and preservation of human capacities, nursing and other professions at the heart of the care economy resist routinization and automation. The course culminates in an exploration of recent efforts to heighten the profit-making potential of the care economy, and it considers the long-term implication of efforts to deskill and outsource care work.
Health Consequences of Global Trade in Food Commodities
Close to one billion people suffer from malnutrition and many more from food deprivation in the twenty-first century. As neoliberal trade policies have restructured national economies, new speculation in global commodities markets has limited access to food by the poor. This course investigates shifting modes of food production as local practices of subsistence agriculture have been replaced by export agriculture and global commodities markets. The course compares the consequences of these changes for women as consumers in the global North as well as for women as producers of subsistence in the global South. Examining impacts of global commodities markets on food distribution, diet, and health, the course also analyzes the health effects of the creation of consumer markets for processed foods.
Gendered Health Impacts of Structural Adjustment Programs
Since the 1980s, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have conditioned loans to poor countries on implementation of economic policy requirements known collectively as structural adjustment. Liberalizing trade, increasing export manufacturing, shifting from subsistence to export-oriented agriculture, and privatizing national assets and industries have all been hallmarks of structural adjustment policies. Comparing experiences in the global South with more recent developments in the European Union, this course provides a gendered analysis of the global health impacts of structural adjustment programs. It investigates why women are over-represented among those most negatively affected by public service cuts and the role of privatization in women’s increased caretaking burdens and decreased paid employment.