IU School of Medicine

Elective Title: 93ZH860 — HISTORY OF PUBLIC HEALTH


This course surveys the history of public health (PH) from antiquity to the 21st c. Aim: provide students an understanding of how history may inform today's PH challenges, such as access to affordable health care; emerging infectious diseases; health consequences of climate change; dislocation of populations from conflicts and natural disasters; malnutrition, and acute and chronic diseases among vulnerable populations. Using chronological, nosological, thematic, and story-based approached to history, students will learn of the origins, theories, natural histories, and systems of PH, primarily in the Western World, but not excluding the East. Students will also become acquainted with Hoosiers who played major roles in shaping PH systems in 20th c. America. The course will explore over the millennia the complex interactions of peoples with diseases or injuries and their environments, including science and technology, social and cultural norms, moral/ethical and religious values, economic and legal precepts, and the roles of health professionals, institutions, and government engaged in shaping PH. The course will use a reading/discussion format with limited didactic teaching and an emphasis on active learning.

Elective Details:

Primary Contact for Add/Drops: Stephen Jay (sjay@iu.edu)

Director: Stephen Jay, M.D.

Campus: Indianapolis

Location: IUSM - Indianapolis

Learning Objectives

  • 1) Examine modern PH from an historical context and apply this information in evaluating contemporary PH issues (PBLI1)
  • 2) Summarize major historical determinants of modern PH theories and practice (PBLI1)
  • 3) Outline the historical social, scientific, economic, ethical, religious, and political context that has shaped the U)S) health care system (PBLI1)
  • 4) Review the roles played by Hoosier PH leaders in building 20th century health professions research, teaching, and health services infrastructure in America (PBLI1)
  • 5) Use historical knowledge and resources to advance their education, research, and practice in PH (PBLI1)


  • Professional Development Evaluation Form; (Attendance; Mini-essays; Class Participation; Final exam)

Enrollment Information

Prerequisites: 3rd or 4th year status

Availability with Max Students per Month:


Duty Hours: 48-50

Time Distribution: 50% Exam; 40% Attendance and class participation; 10% Essay

Elective Type Category: PD - Professional Development

Notes and Enrollment Information:

Add/Drop Contact Person: Stephen Jay (sjay@iu.edu) M,W,F (7:30 - 9:30)

Third Year Elective? Yes

Interprofessional Skills and Service Learning

Interprofessional Collaborative Skills: Yes

Skills Description: To foster thinking and exploring the questions about population health in a historical context students are encouraged to collaborate with their colleagues and faculty across disciplines, staff, and patients to address the complex medical, social, legal, economic, moral/ethical, challenges we face in Indiana, U.S. and globally. Only through interprofessional collaboration and also interactions with patients, community leaders and other non-professionals can the major public health threats we face in the future be addressed.

Service Learning Included: None