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Harvard School of Public Health

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Fall 2006

Department of Society, Human Development and Health and the Department of Nutrition
Instructor TBA, Dr. L. Berkman, Dr. M. McCormick
2.5 credits
Lectures, seminars. Two 2-hour sessions each week.

Tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity, and alcohol consumption were the leading causes of death in the U.S. in 2000. Worldwide, behavioral and psychiatric disorders are supplanting traditional physical conditions as the leading causes of morbidity and mortality. Traditional public health theory, research and practice may require a new "lifespan" orientation to address both these behavioral morbidities and many physical disorders which often have underpinnings in biological and social influences operating early and throughout the lifecourse. For instance: 1) there is growing evidence that several adult chronic diseases may result from nutritional intake and growth during pregnancy and infancy; and 2) similarly, that many adult health behaviors also have early developmental origins. This course will review such lifecourse approaches as applied to public health. The first sessions will highlight the need for a developmental / lifespan approach to contemporary public health problems, including new evidence from the human genome project and early environmental influences on differential gene expression. The remaining sessions will cover three phases of human development (childhood, adolescence and adulthood), will describe major health risks and disorders arising during each phase, and review the etiology and prevention of these conditions by considering: a) how these conditions relate to co-occurring physical, cognitive and social developmental transitions at these ages; and b) may result from the accumulation of risk and protective influences from earlier life stages. New research directions and public health practice strategies deriving from this approach will be highlighted.
Course Activities: Assigned readings, lectures, seminars and in class exams
Course note: No auditors (5.06)

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