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Sociology Dept | Library

SOCY/HNSC 3505 Sociology of Public Health: Syllabus

Professor Juan Ferre's OER

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to introduce the student to a sociological approach to Public Health. The course can be divided in two parts. In the first one, we analyze the impact of different social factors on the health of individuals and different communities. We use the social determinants of health framework to understand why Black and Latinx communities have worse overall health indicators, or how gender oppression translates into adverse health outcomes for women. Social class is recognized as a major determinant of health: an individual’s place in society, their role in the production process, and their situation within capitalist property relations conditions their habits, their ability to adopt a healthy lifestyle, and their access to quality health care.

In the second part of the course we take a deep dive into the madness of US Health Care. It is a well-known fact that the US health care system is the most expensive in the world and performs much worse than other systems spending roughly half as much per capita. A look into the different healthcare components and actors will allow the student to get a grasp of the “dysfunctionality” of US health care. The readings in class provide a framework and compelling empirical evidence to identify the economic interests lying behind the reluctance to implement a less expensive, more equitable, and more efficient health care system. We analyze on of the ‘single-payer alternatives’, Medicare for All. 

Course Requirements

This course is primarily a discussion seminar. I expect you to read all assigned texts and participate in class discussions. Political views are part and parcel of the debates on any current sociological topic, and they will be encouraged in class, but they need to be grounded in empirical knowledge or solid theoretical foundations. All course materials will be available online.

Important Note

Do not use your cellphones in class at any moment.

Final Grade Determination

  • Class participation and assignments (30 %): I expect you to attend all classes and participate in class discussions.
  • Class presentation (10 %): all students will give a group presentation on Medicare, Medicaid or employer-based insurances.
  • Current events (10 %): one student every class will present 5-10 minutes on a piece of news on any topic related to Public Health. Some examples are: Medicare-for-All / Single Payer, the New York Health Act, vaccinations, the drug industry, food deserts, or the impact of any social/economic condition (like unemployment, race or gender, sexual orientation, immigration status) on a person’s


  • Midterm (20 %): It will be a take-home exam on the general 
  • Final paper (30%): 10-15 page final paper on a topic to be approved by me before April 1. The deadline for the final paper is May 22. 


More than two absences without notice will have an impact on your grade: for every class missed above the two allowed, I will deduct 5% of your final grade. Tardiness will be marginally tolerated. After the first week of class, every two late arrivals will be computed as one absence.


  • In order to receive disability-related academic accommodations students must first be registered with the Center for Student Disability Services.
  • Students who have a documented disability or suspect they may have a disability are invited to set up an appointment with the Director of the Center for Student Disability Services, Ms. Valerie Stewart-Lovell at 718-951-5538.
  • If you have already registered with the Center for Student Disability Services, please provide your professor with the course accommodation form and discuss your specific accommodation with him/her.

University Policy on Academic Integrity

  • The faculty and administration of Brooklyn College support an environment free from cheating and plagiarism.
  • Each student is responsible for being aware of what constitutes cheating and plagiarism and for avoiding both.
  • View complete text of CUNY Academic Integrity Policy and Brooklyn College procedure for policy implementation.
  • If a faculty member suspects a violation of academic integrity and, upon investigation, confirms that violation, or if the student admits the violation, the faculty member must report the violation.
  • Please read the section entitled “Academic Regulations and Procedures” in the Brooklyn College Undergraduate Bulletin or Graduate Bulletin for a complete listing of academic regulations of the College.

Student Bereavement

  1. Students who experience the death of a loved one must contact the Division of Student Affairs, 2113 Boylan Hall, if they wish to implement either the Standard Bereavement Procedure or the Leave of Absence Bereavement Procedure. The Division of Student Affairs has the right to request a document that verifies the death (e.g., a funeral program or death notice).
  2. Typically, this death involves that of a family member, in parallel to the bereavement policy for faculty and staff. However, it is up to the discretion of the Division of Student Affairs to determine if a death outside of the immediate family warrants implementation of the student bereavement policy.
  3. As an option, and in consultation with the Division of Student Affairs, students may take the Leave of Absence Bereavement after the Standard Bereavement.
  4. Reference to the Student Bereavement Policies will be noted on course syllabi.
  5. Students requesting a religious accommodation should contact the Division of Student Affairs as well. The chief student affairs officer, or a designee, and the student will engage in an interactive process with the goal of finding an acceptable accommodation.

Standard Bereavement Procedure:

  • Upon approval from the Division of Student Affairs, the student is allowed one week, commencing from the day of notification to the Division of Student Affairs, of excused absence.
  • Should the student feel that he/she needs additional days, these should be discussed with individual course instructors and/or the Division of Student Affairs.
  • The Division of Student Affairs will contact the student’s faculty and academic staff of the student’s courses.
  • Faculty and academic staff will be advised that extensions must be granted to the student for the period of one week of excused absence.
  • Further extensions may be negotiated with the student when he or she returns to campus.
  • Students are encouraged to discuss options with their instructors.

Leave of Absence Bereavement Procedure:

  • Students may be allowed to withdraw from the semester in which the death occurs.
  • The Bereavement Leave of Absence is for one semester only.
  • Students who have opted to take the Bereavement Leave of Absence and have already attended classes for the semester of the leave will be allowed to re-enter the following semester without having to reapply to the college.
  • Students who wish to take the leave of absence prior to the beginning of the semester will be required to reapply for the following semester.
  • Students who are in good academic standing will be given the opportunity to successfully complete the credits for the semester in which they return.
  • Students will consult with the Division of Student Affairs, on a case-by-case basis, as to whether they should withdraw from their courses during this leave of absence or to request incompletes from the faculty member.
  • Given that there may be a potential impact on financial aid, students who receive financial aid and who take the Bereavement Leave of Absence, upon arrangement with the Division of Student Affairs, will meet with a financial aid adviser prior to taking this option.

Nonattendance because of religious beliefs

  • The New York State Education Law provides that no student shall be expelled or refused admission to an institution of higher education because he or she is unable to attend classes or participate in examinations or study or work requirements on any particular day or days because of religious beliefs.
  • Students who are unable to attend classes on a particular day or days because of religious beliefs will be excused from any examination or study or work requirements.
  • Faculty must make good-faith efforts to provide students absent from class because of religious beliefs equivalent opportunities to make up the work missed; no additional fees may be charged for this consideration.
  • If classes, examinations, or study or work requirements occur on Friday after 4 p.m. or on Saturday, similar or makeup classes, examinations, or study or work requirements will be made available on other days, where possible and practical.
  • The faculty and the administration will not allow any adverse or prejudicial effects to accrue to students availing themselves of this regulation.
  • If students have complaints about the application of this policy, they are entitled to bring action or a proceeding for enforcement of their rights in the Supreme Court of Kings County

Download Syllabus