WGH 211: Gender and Health: Introductory Perspectives

Faculty: Brittany Charlton, ScD
Fall 1 Course
2.5 credits


This course will introduce students to gender as a theoretical concept and a category of analysis in public health—specifically, the ways in which gender contributes to differentially structuring women and men’s experiences of health. The course proposes to answer such questions as: How can understanding gender structures help us interpret public health research? How has gender influenced the construction of public health in diverse societies? How do our social frameworks and structures, such as gender, affect people’s experiences and expectations of health? How is the success of behavioral change interventions and the validity of basic behavioral and evaluation research affected by gender?

This course emphasizes the epidemiological aspects of gender analysis and the interactions between gender, class, race/ethnicity, and sexuality. The course will cover a broad range of health issues for which gender has been of special importance. Topics covered include: chronic disease, environmental health, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, violence, contraceptives, infertility, abortion, body image, and substance use. Additionally, sessions will include global, U.S. domestic, and historical perspectives, with attention primarily paid to the epidemiologic investigation as well as the social and behavioral sciences and health policy dimensions.


By the end of this introductory course, students should be able to:

  • Describe the difference between sex and gender, and critically evaluate its use in epidemiologic investigation, social and behavioral sciences, and health policy.
  • Develop an appreciation for how social frameworks of gender, race/ethnicity, class, and sexuality have influenced the conceptualization and practice of public health and evaluation and associative research.
  • Appreciate and describe the importance of a gendered perspective to work in public health, epidemiologic investigation, and social sciences.
  • Recognize and evaluate the international and cross-cultural dimensions of how women and men experience gender and health.


There are no prerequisites, though a basic understanding of public health concepts, especially in epidemiology, will aid the student’s understanding. This course will prepare students to take other WGH classes and this course counts as a prerequisite for advanced WGH courses such as Dr. Nancy Krieger’s WGH250 and Dr. Allegra Gordon’s WGH207 offered later in the year.