Fall 2014 - 62460 - PA383C - Policy Development | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Fall 2014 - 62460 - PA383C - Policy Development

Gender, Health & Society

This course examines the gender dimensions of health, illness, and the medical care industry in the United States and other developed nations.  It is motivated by the fact that health, disease, and medical care have important gender-specific dimensions that are affected by economics, politics, and culture.  Because of gender-based disadvantages in the labor force women, and especially minority women, are more likely than men to have low incomes and little wealth, particularly if they are unmarried with children. Poor women and families have often had to do without the medical care they need even as their children quality for Medicaid.  The passage of health reform legislation has potentially important implications for poor women’s access to medical care since by 2014 all poor Americans will qualify for Medicaid or subsidized public insurance. During the course we will follow and discuss issues related to the implementation of health care reform and determine how our health care delivery system will be affected in the years to come.  In the past the medical care system often ignored gender, as well as race-based differences in health care needs. Early studies of heart disease risks were, for example, based on samples of white men.  Today, the National Institutes of Health and other funding agencies are aware of these shortcomings and are addressing these issues head on.  During the course we will examine these initiatives in detail.

These gaps in knowledge concerning risks and appropriate treatments have very specific consequences that we will investigate.  The collection of readings will allow us to examine the social institutions that shape men’s and women’s health and health care.  Specific topics will include reproductive health, single motherhood and the stress of raising children alone, welfare and health care, divorce and changes in health, certain illnesses that women experience including breast and ovarian cancer, drug and alcohol abuse, and the forces that influence research into women’s health problems. In addition, we examine the role of women as major actors in changing the health care system, reducing health risks for themselves and their families, and their roles as health care providers, public administrators, and leaders in the health care establishment. We will also touch upon the role of local, state and federal agencies in health policy formulation and implementation, the politics of the medicalization of women’s issues including childbirth, refugee and immigrant women's health, and more.

The second objective of the course is for students to develop an understanding of the major sources of health data (e.g., demographic statistics, administrative records, health surveys, etc.).  Our objective is to develop a critical understanding of the appropriate use of health-related data and to determine how they can best be used to evaluate a broad array of public policies related to women’s health care. 

Finally, the course will examine the role of different levels and branches of government, including the presidency, Congress, the courts, and the bureaucracy, in the formation of public policy.  Alternative political ideologies regarding state and private responsibility for women’s health will be compared and contrasted.  Similarly we will assess the relative power of key non-governmental actors, such as interest groups, health care NPOs, researchers, and the media in the definition and framing of our health agenda.


Class sessions will consist of lectures and collective discussions. Written requirements include a policy issue brief (50%), article or government report review (20%), point-counterpoint exchange, legislative briefing (20%). Attendance and participation are integral parts of the course and will count towards the final grade (10%).


Bird, C.E. and P.P. Rieker. 2008. Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choices and Social

 Policies. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Freund, P., B. McGuire, and L. Podhurst.  2003.  Health, Illness, and the Social Body: A Critical

Sociology (4thed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Stone, D.  2001.  Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making. New York:  W.W.

Norton and Company.


For more information, contact Dr. Jacqueline Angel at jangel@austin.utexas.edu

9:00AM to 12:00PM
SRH 3.124