Critical Health Studies Undergraduate Degree Program

Erika Bonadio, Exercise Science, Salem College, Spring Duvall, Communication and Media Studies, Salem College, Katie Manthey, English and Professional Writing, Salem College, Maria Robinson, Fine Arts, Salem College, Jing Ye, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Salem College


Critical Health Studies

Critical Health Studies is a transdisciplinary major program of co-taught courses that incorporates STEM subjects (biology, biochemistry, environmental science, psychology, and kinesiology), social sciences (anthropology, sociology, communications, entrepreneurship), and humanities (writing, religion, history, arts), related to health and well-being. Students will proceed through the major in a cohort that is book-ended by project-based learning seminars. A meta focus in action research will lead these cohorts in partnerships with community groups to create meaningful interventions to reduce health inequities. The curriculum will model a decolonized course design to promote fundamental values.

We live in a dynamic, complex world, where competing worldviews make it difficult for people to understand each other. The Critical Health Studies program is for students who love sciences, love humanities, and want a meaningful way to combine them. In this program, students develop a multifaceted approach to knowledge and problem-solving that recognizes the value of STEM, social sciences, the humanities, and the arts - essentially allowing them to code-switch in their thought structures and language. Graduates of this program will be equipped to lead in the creation of meaningful interventions to social inequities related to various components of health.

Students who graduate from this program will be prepared to enter careers in advocacy, health and human services, nonprofit organizations, or to attend graduate school.See courses and sequencing »

Foundational Knowledge

Students will evaluate the core tenets of the nine components of health typical of standard higher education curricula (i.e., physical, emotional, intellectual, interpersonal, cultural, spiritual, environmental, financial, occupational) by normalizing alternative lenses of gender, sexuality, race and/or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc.

Foundational scientific knowledge includes

  • Basic biochemistry in order to understand the issues like nutrition, drugs, and neuron science (an interdisciplinary understanding of mental health, physical health, and how we learn)
  • Psychology of health (including developmental and cognitive psychology, processes of change, sport and exercise psychology)
  • Environmental science (including clean air, food and water, drugs, solid and hazardous wastes)
  • Anatomy and physiology (including exercise physiology)
  • Basic epidemiology
  • Statistics (interpretation and understanding claims made about health)

Meta Knowledge

  • Importance of play and imagination in health and learning.
  • Creatively in exploring problems and effectively communicate possible solutions.
  • Oral, written, and artistic communication.

Humanistic Knowledge

  • Ethics will be incorporated into each course in the major.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion will be incorporated into every course in the major.
  • Inclusion of histories, cultures, and belief systems in order to fully address health futures. Colonial and cultural understandings of health.
  • Feminist philosophy of science.
  • Scientific processes in a changing world.
  • Emphasize women/women's health/research on women, health, and science.

Goals of the Program

  • Promote the core tenets of the nine components of health typical of standard higher education curricula (i.e., physical, emotional, intellectual, interpersonal, cultural, spiritual, environmental, financial, occupational) by normalizing alternative lenses of gender, sexuality, race and/or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc.
  • Create leaders in decolonizing STEM education, careers, and post undergraduate research.
  • Increase the number of underrepresented populations in STEM fields and post undergraduate study.
  • Prepare students to use protocols of research in STEM fields and post undergraduate study.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learning Outcome 1
    Critical Health Literacy: Students will be able to translate information from the key areas of health and physical expression to make recommendations for interventions through research, outreach and teaching.
  • Learning Outcome 2
    Health Communication: Students will be able to consume and produce effective interpersonal and multimedia health communications (marketing, advocacy, impact).
  • Learning Outcome 3
    Interpret Health Related Research:Students will be able to critically analyze, evaluate, and disseminate current health-related research efficiently and effectively.
  • Learning Outcome 4
    Historical Knowledge of Health:Students will be able to employ the knowledge and skills gained by studying the past to understand contemporary issues, to challenge inaccurate or unsupported claims, to make careful comparisons across time, space, and culture, and to take informed positions.
  • Learning Outcome 5
    Social Justice:Students will be able to advocate for social justice in health and action research.
  • Learning Outcome 6
    Solve Real-World Problems:Solve/explore unstructured real-world problems that require teamwork and contributions from diverse disciplines to demonstrate independent learning skills and enthusiasm for the field.

Assessing Program Outcomes

  • The program will be assessed with a pre and post evaluation through a yearly community action research event. Students will compile a portfolio of products created over the course of the program that represents foundational, meta, and humanistic knowledge.
    • Intro Seminar - Deconstructing Language Around Decolonization
      • Statement of Critical Health Values and Projected Goals
      • Health Philosophy
      • Audio/Visual interview with aspirational figure
    • Final cumulative portfolio
      • LO1- Critical Health Literacy: Yearly Community Action Research Event/Examples of Statistical and Analytic Studies/Artistic, Creative, Play Products
      • LO2- Health Communication: Written Statement of Critical Health Values and Projected Goals/Written Health Philosophy/Multimedia project
      • LO3- Interpret Health Related Research: Examples of Statistical and Analytic Studies
      • LO4- Historical Knowledge of Health: Deconstructing Language Around Decolonization/Audio-Visual interview with aspirational figure
      • LO5- Social Justice: Yearly Community Action Research Event/Producing an Action Product
      • LO6- Solve Real-World Problems: Deconstructing Language Around Decolonization/Producing an Action Product/Yearly Community Action Research Event
    • Senior Seminar - Producing an Action Product
      • Final public creative product (website, magazine, event)

Critical Health Studies Alignment.docx.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 67kB Oct25 20)

Courses and Sequencing

The proposed sequence of new and existing courses will prepare students for some of the following career and education paths:

Career Paths with a Critical Health Studies Degree

  1. Hospital or Physician's Office: Maybe you're drawn to a busy hospital environment, where you might field media inquiries, write newsletter articles, and release news to the community. Or you might prefer working in a doctor's office, where you plan and handle meaningful communications activities on a smaller scale. The critical lens gained from this degree will take into account the research, the practitioner, and the patient as they serve to guide health facilities.
  2. PR/Advertising/Marketing Firm: You're likely to manage all of the agency's health-related clients, serving as the liaison between them and the creative team. As your company's health services knowledge base, you'll play a pivotal role planning communications matters using an assortment of media tools with an increased knowledge of underserved populations and equity
  3. Nonprofit Health Agency: As the resident critical health studies expert, you'll oversee and implement strategic communications plans that include all populations. You might also be the go-to pro at community engagements, helping educate local citizens and explaining concepts in layman's terms in an equitable approach.
  4. Pharmaceutical Company: Here your bachelor's in critical health studies could help you sift through obscure medical terminology and translate it into understandable language for publication on packaging materials, client manuals, and digital communications on the company website with a critical lens.
  5. Public/Community Health Sectors: It's all too common for a health epidemic like the flu to infect a large swath of a city's population. That's when you'd step in to help educate the public and alleviate their fears with an understanding of diverse populations. Beyond harnessing your risk-management skills, you'd be a valuable critical health education resource, spearheading community health communications plans and serving as a trusted source for local media representatives. The community health sector provides a unique, growing area of the health care industry. With the right add-on courses, the graduates could consider work as community health educators, coordinators, physician health representatives, outreach specialists.

Retrieved from (Revised to include Critical Theory Focus)See courses and sequencing »