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UC Berkeley


Health and Illness

Field Description

Students in the Health and Illness research field study the effects of various types of factors on health outcomes. This is a complex topic. They might draw from anthropology to reveal cross-cultural variation in conceptions of well-being and health norms. From Demography, they may learn to investigate statistical variation in indicators of health and well-being; from Sociology, they might learn how  to understand the social determinants of health and illness; from Economics and Public Policy, students might learn to assess the incentive structure of different health care systems; from Public Health and in the College of Natural Resources, they might learn about the policy effectiveness of various public health campaigns; and from Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology, students might learn about the human body. Students may also be interested in philosophical and political questions about access to health care, and a society’s responsibility to ensure the basic health of all its members.

Recent ISF Senior Theses

  • Who is Healthier and Why? A Comparative Study of the Health Care Systems in the United States and Switzerland
  • Helping the Poor? The Effects of World Bank Poverty Fighting Policies in Vietnam and Bangladesh.
  • Stealing Lives: Corruption and its Costs in Healthcare Delivery Systems in Ethiopia
  • Microfinance and Maternal Mortality. The Effects of Small Loans in Women’s Health and Autonomy in Rural Central America
  • How Did We Get Here? The Obesity Epidemic in the United Sates
  • Reproduction, Rights, and Resistance: Understanding the Obstacles and Imagining Solutions to Maternal Health in Los Altos of Chiapas, Mexico
  • Rationalization and Military Health Policy: How the Quest for Efficiency has Affected Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars
  • The Impact of Political Inefficiency on Access to Reproductive Health: A Study of Adolescent Sexual Health in Argentina
  • How Does the Refugee Experience Affect Long-Term Health Outcomes? A Health Profile of Hmong, Cambodian, and Vietnamese Refugees
  • Who Best Serves the World’s Women? A Comparative Analysis of Public Reproductive Healthcare Systems in the United States and Sri Lanka

Relevant UC Berkeley Courses

  • Integrative Biology C195: Introduction to Global Health Disparities Research
  • History 183A: Health and Disease
  • Anthropology 115: Introduction to Medical Anthropology
  • Public Health 126: Health Economics and Public Policy
  • Public Health 183: The History of Medicine, Public Health, and Allied Health Sciences
  • Sociology C115: The Sociology of Health and Medicine
  • Economics 157: Health Economics
  • Asian American Studies 143: Asian American Health
  • Chicano Studies 176: Chicanos and Health Care
  • Neuroscience C217D: Biological and Public Health Aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease

Agarwal, N.K. 2007. “Exploring Identity, Culture, and Suffering with a Kashmiri Sikh Refugee.” Social Science & Medicine 65: 1654-1665.

Aronowitz, Robert. 2008. “Framing Disease: An Underappreciated Mechanism for the Social Patterning of Health.” Social Science & Medicine 67: 1-9.

Barker, Kristin. 2002. “Self-Help Literature and the Making of an Illness Identity: The Case of Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS).” Social Problems 49 (3): 279-300.

Bartley, Mel. 2004. Health Inequality: An Introduction to Concepts, Theories and Methods.

Brown, Phil. 1995. “Naming and Framing: The Social Construction of Diagnosis and Illness.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 35: 34-52.

Farmer, Paul. 2003. Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and The New War on the Poor.

Foucault, Michel. 1988. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. 

Fuchs, Victor R. 2011. Who Shall Live? Health, Economics And Social Choice.

Handbook of Early Childhood Development Research and Its Impact on Global Policy 

Hayward, Mark D., Eileen M. Crimmins, et al.. 2000. “The Significance of Socioeconomic Status in Explaining the Racial Gap in Chronic Health Conditions.” American Sociological Review 65(4): 910-930 .

Hirschauer, Stefan. 1991. “The Manufacture of Bodies in Surgery.” Social Studies of Science 21 (2): 279-319.

Hummer, Robert H, Richard G. Rogers, and Isaac W. Eberstein. 1998. “Sociodemographic Differentials in Adult Mortality: A Review of Analytic Approaches.” Population and Development Review24(3): 553-578.

Jackson, Pamela Braboy and Montenique Finney. 2002. “Negative Life Events and Psychological Distress among Young Adults.” Social Psychology Quarterly 65(2): 186-201.

Kleinman, A. 1998. “Do Psychiatric Disorders Differ in Different Cultures?” Pp. 185-195 in Understanding and Applying Medical Anthropology, edited by Peter J. Brown.

Lakoff, Andrew. 2005. “Diagnostic Liquidity: Mental Illness and the Global Trade in DNA.” Theory and Society 34 (1): 63-92.

Lara, Marielena, Cristina Gamboa, et al. 2005. “Acculturation and Latino Health in the United States: A Review of the Literature and its Sociopolitical Context.” Annual Review of Public Health26(1):367–97.

Marmot, Michael, and Richard G. Wilkinson, eds. 2005. Social Determinants of Health.

Musick, Marc A. and John Wilson. 2003. “Volunteering and Depression: The Role of Psychological and Social Resources in Different Age Groups.” Social Science & Medicine 56: 259-269.

Nelson, Alondra. 2011. Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination.

Nguyen, Vinh-Kim and Karine Peschard. 2003. “Anthropology, Inequality and Disease: A Review.” Annual Review of Anthropology 32:447-474.

Oxford Handbook of Poverty and Child Development 

Petryna, Adriana. 2009. When Experiments Travel: Clinical Trials and the Global Search for Human Subjects.

Porter, Roy. 1999. The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity.

Read, Jen‟nan Ghazal and Bridget K. Gorman. 2010. “Gender and Health Inequality.” Annual Review of Sociology 36: 371-386.

Rothman, David J., Steven Marcus, and Stephanie A. Kiceluk, eds. 1995. Medicine and Western Civilization. 

Singer, Merrill, and Hans Baer. 2012. Introducing Medical Anthropology: A Discipline in Action.

Starr, Paul. 1984. The Social Transformation of American Medicine: The Rise of a Sovereign Profession and the Making of a Vast Industry. 

Starr, Paul. 2013. Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Health Care Reform.

Street, A. (2009). “Failed Recipients: Extracting Blood in a Papua New Guinea Hospital.” Body & Society 15(2): 193-215.

Thoits, Peggy A. 1984. “Explaining Distributions of Psychological Vulnerability: Lack of Social Support in the Face of Life Stress.” Social Forces 63: 453-481.

Venkatapuram, Sridhar. 2011. Health Justice: An Argument from the Capabilities Approach.

Wilkinson, Richard, and Kate Pickett. 2011. The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger.