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Explore Health, Society & Populations Program

The goal of the Health, Society, and Populations Program is to advance understanding of the social, historical, economic, psychological, and behavioral determinants of health, with a special focus on social and economic disparities in health in Kentucky, the U.S., and across the developing world. The complexity of the health domain requires a commitment to interdisciplinary and collaborative inquiry, and the 25 faculty affiliates of the program provide training in the disciplines of history, biology, anthropology, economics, sociology, demography, psychology, philosophy, geography, and gender and women’s studies.


As a program, we are committed to understanding the most pressing health challenges and pursuing solutions to these challenges through innovative and high-quality programming and professional development activities.


Recent course offerings include:

  • Medicine, Health, and Society
  • Medical Geography
  • Health and the Environment
  • Cultural, Environmental, and Global Health Issues
  • Global Dynamics of Health and Disease
  • Heath and Disease in U.S. History
  • Health Care Ethics
  • Gender and Disability
  • Introduction to Public Health
  • Sexual Health
  • Disease Detectives: Epidemiology in Active
  • Health and Medical Care Delivery Systems
  • Human Health and Wellness
  • Sociology of Health and Illness
  • Sociology of Disability

Unique educational opportunities for majors include:

  • A study abroad program concerning the healthcare experiences of refugees in the U.S. and Greece (postponed to summer 2022)
  • A for-credit service-learning program addressing early health inequalities in the Lexington community in collaboration with local partners
  • Regular professional development workshops, lectures and scholarly talks
  • A University Scholars Program that enables students to complete a BA in Health, Society and Populations and a master’s degree in one of four programs offered through the College of Public Health within a five-year time period
  • Individualized mentorship and financial support to present at the university-wide Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars, and at regional and national conferences

Our major strives to be a diverse, cohesive, and vibrant community where all of our students are engaged and supported in their work. Demographically, we are diverse, as a majority of students enrolled in our major are non-white (52%), and more than 75% are female or non-binary. As well, we support a diversity of interests, as evidenced by a snapshot of some of the titles of 2020 capstone projects:

  • Socioeconomic Status and Eye Health in Appalachian Kentucky
  • Stress Management among Nurses Working During COVID-19
  • The College Mental Health Bubble and the Effects of COVID-19
  • Epidemic within a Pandemic: Evaluating the Effects of Systemic Racism on COVID-19 Morbidity and Mortality
  • Air Pollution and Asthma Rates in Kentucky
  • Postpartum Depression: How Does SES Affect Prevalence?
  • Empowering Young Women to Address HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Understanding Maternal Mortality among Black Women
  • Race/Ethnic Disparities in Mental Health Services


Where Can an HSP Major Take Me?

The Health, Society, and Populations (HSP) B.A. degree provides graduates with a broad liberal-arts education, in addition to a concentration on social science based approaches to understanding health outcomes. HSP students will obtain the fundamental knowledge required to understand the relationships that exist between the global economy, social and structural inequalities, and the distribution of health and illness. The program develops the critical thinking, communication, and independent study skills necessary for students to pursue careers in health and human services that are currently in high demand as a result of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA). In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports “The health care and social assistance sector will account for almost a third of the projected job growth from 2012 to 2022”


An HSP degree prepares students for career opportunities in city, state and federal government, nonprofit organizations, and in the public and private health sectors. Employment web sites such as post entry-level positions that would be appropriate for HSP graduates. The majority of these positions specify a Bachelor’s in public health, social science, or another health-related degree. Examples of job include:

·      Health advocacy – Health advocates are unlicensed professionals that engage in education, public outreach, community organizing, and other activities that promote the health of individuals and populations.

·      Case management – Case managers are patient advocates who serve as a liaison between patients, families, doctors, and social services organizations; individuals with degrees in social sciences have been part of case management teams for some time, e.g., to assist in assessing structural and social challenges to health, local interpretations of health, the social organization of clinical interactions, etc.

·      Health counseling – HSP majors will be qualified for entry-level health counseling positions that do not require licensing, such as those with non-profit or community-based organizations. Health counselors provide support, guidance, and information to assist clients in overcoming emotional, socioeconomic and other types of hardships. They may work with children, families, mental health patients, substance abusers or prisoners.

·      Health marketing and communications – Health marketing and communications professionals create and use products or programs to promote health changes in individuals and communities. They use social marketing to define problems, identify target audiences, select communication channels, and develop and implement communication strategies.

·      Program development and evaluation – The HSP degree will qualify graduates to work with program developers, who oversee the design of health programs based on assessments of population health needs. They may also assist in writing proposals for program funding from government agencies or private donors and/or work as members of evaluation teams to collect, analyze, and present information in all sectors of government and in for-profit and non-profit agencies.

·      Project management – Project managers work in many settings, including universities, research institutes, and for-profit and non-profit organizations. Project managers coordinate the overall and day-to-day tasks associated with implementation of one or more research projects or programs, such as mailing surveys, coordinating data collection or data entry, and preparing project materials for review and/or dissemination.

·      Research analysis – Research analysts may work in universities, research institutes, government agencies, and in for-profit and non-profit organizations. Research analysts are responsible for analyzing and reporting data to monitor population health trends to those who make policy decisions and/or for purposes of informing the general public.

·      Graduate School in a Health Related Field – HSP majors are prepared to enter graduate school both in the social sciences (e.g., medical anthropology, medical geography, or medical sociology) as well as professional health fields (e.g., nursing, medicine, pharmacy, public health). Additional coursework may be required for admission to some professional health fields (e.g., medicine).


Visit the HSP website for more information.


Prospective student time to meet with faculty: 11am EST 8/21, 9/18, 10/23, 11/20, 12/11: