Introduction to Health Disparities

Course:WST 2322
Introduction to Health Disparities
GenEd:Diversity (D)
Social and Behavioral (S)
Laura K. Guyer
Laura K. Guyer, PhD, RDN
Health Disparities Program
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

This course will focus on preparing future health professionals to meet the goals of Healthy People 2020 to eliminate health disparities.

In this course, students will learn about the contemporary issues faced by today’s health professionals and identify the new skills needed to deliver patient-centered care in a changing society. Students will understand how the social determinants of health related to health status and will investigate their impact on future health outcomes.

This course introduces the multifaceted issue of health disparities in the U.S health care system. Socially marginalized and economically disenfranchised populations will be examined at the individual, systemic and institutional levels. Students will explore the intersections of culture, education, literacy, language, social class and community networks with race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, disability and more. They learn how new skills such as cultural competence and health literacy improve the delivery of health care.

The first part of the course examines the social variables associated with health disparities. Students move systematically to investigate the role of socio-demographic factors, social stigma and socio-economic disenfranchisement in marginalized populations that prevent access to care and the delivery of quality health care. The course ends with a study of legal, public policy and national education initiatives that promote social justice and health equity.

Introduction to Health Disparities meets the General Education requirements for (D) and (S). In the course, students will learn to:

  1. Identify the cultural values, attitudes, activities and norms associated with different U.S. communities;
  2. Explore the role of changing national demographics on the health delivery system;
  3. Examine the characteristics of populations at risk for disparities based on economic disenfranchisement, limited access to care, social marginalization and social stigma;
  4. Identify the individual, institutional and systemic solutions proposed to promote health equity.

This course prepares students for careers in:

  • Medicine
  • Physician Assisting
  • Nursing
  • Dentistry
  • Pharmacy
  • Health Professions – Speech and Language Pathology, Audiology, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Rehabilitation Therapy, Dietetics
  • Public Health
  • Health Education
  • Law
  • Journalism and Communication
  • Business

Image source:

Current students

Talk to your Academic Advisor to see how this course could fit into your academic plan. We’d love for you to join us in this online learning adventure.