21A.215 | Spring 2012 | Undergraduate

Disease and Health: Culture, Society, and Ethics


Third Written Assignment

7–10 pages

Session 19: Topics discussed in class

Session 20: Optional draft due

Session 22: Optional draft handed back

Session 24: Paper due

Choose a topic in the field of international health and write about it. Describe the medical aspects of your topic, using technical language sparingly—write for a general audience (Uncle Joe). Then describe the main social, cultural, political, and economic factors that constitute its context.

As always, if you have opinions, you may write briefly about them, drawing a clear distinction between any advocacy language and your descriptive/analytical writing. It’s best to put opinions at the end of your paper if feasible.

The topic you choose should be amenable to a 7–10 page treatment. I can help you narrow or broaden it.

The way to go about choosing a topic (which is an integral part of the assignment) is to think about what interests you (guaranteed, SOMETHING in international health interests you). If you’re stumped, think about our readings. If you’re still stumped, browse through the topics in the “Supplementary Reading” section of the class website.

Papers may be about contemporary issues or historical ones.


  • The introduction of some aspect of biomedicine in another country
  • International development efforts to improve public health in a country, or that country’s own efforts (e.g., improve nutrition, increase the number of hospital beds, teach about boiling water, supply clean water to an area suffering from water-borne diseases)
  • International health agencies like the World Health Organization
  • A Non-Governmental Organization—e.g., Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health, The Smile Train
  • A Ministry of Health in another country
  • International pharmaceutical companies’ impact in an area of the world
  • Other health-related multinationals
  • A case involving a clash between biomedicine and local traditional healing systems
  • Campaigns to reduce incidence of or eradicate diseases, for example, yaws, smallpox, malaria, HIV/AIDS
  • A vaccination campaign

Any topic concerned with health in the international context is a possibility.

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Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2012
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments