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Understanding and Addressing Adolescent Health: A Public Health Approach

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

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Course Description

Why is adolescence the most important time in your life for your health? We’ll explore this question by examining adolescence as a unique life stage for one’s health and well-being. The course will assess the role of social and environmental factors in shaping adolescent health and use this information to generate innovative solutions to important public health challenges in adolescent health.

What does drinking during adolescence have to do with your health as an adult? How does the zip code of your house influence your health? This course will answer these questions and more through an exploration of adolescent health from both a developmental and ecological perspective. Developmentally, the course will situate adolescence within the broader life course to recognize the connectedness of health before and after adolescence. Ecologically, the course will examine the influence of major contextual factors such as peers, family, and neighborhood characteristics on adolescent health. The course will focus on selected behaviors that significantly contribute to adolescent morbidity and mortality such as substance use, risky sexual behaviors and eating disorders.

Students will not only be exposed to the issues within adolescent health, but will also be challenged to generate innovative solutions to those problems. Small group activities throughout the course will guide students in how to critically read and interpret a scientific article, a transferable skill to all collegiate courses. Students will also interact with other sources of course material- media coverage, case scenarios and policy whitepapers. During the course, students will work in teams as consultants to recommend a policy or program to address a particular adolescent health risk behavior. Doing so will allow students to thoughtfully apply course concepts and personal experience to produce original solutions to real-world problems within adolescent health.

This course will serve as a basis for further study in adolescent health specifically, and health promotion and human development more broadly. Students will gain familiarity with theoretical paradigms and empirical evidence applicable to further study in public health and health promotion. Additionally, students will gain skills in critical analysis and program and policy development pertinent to the field of public health. The instructor is an adolescent health researcher with over ten years of experience designing, implementing and evaluating adolescent health programs. Further, the instructor’s program of research is focused on contextual influences on the development of adolescent substance use which provides the expertise necessary to deliver and assess the course content.

1. Identify major adolescent health risk behaviors;
2. Situate adolescence within the life course;
3. Critically evaluate how social and environmental factors shape adolescent health; and
4. Recommend strategies for health promotion policies and programs that prevent or reduce adolescent health risk behaviors.

While no background in a particular discipline is required, students with a strong interest in public health or other applied aspects of health promotion and disease prevention may find the material most conducive to their course of study. The interdisciplinary nature of the course, however, is an open invitation to anyone with an interest in policy, medicine and the social sciences more broadly.

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