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Special Topics Courses

Health and Society offers a variety of special topics course to complement permanent courses and develop new course sequences. All of the special topics courses count towards program requirements. Some of these may be one-time-only opportunities, so register for them while you can!

Visit the academic course calendar or speak with the DHS Program Coordinator to determine which topics courses suit your major path.


Winter 2022

HLTC52H3S: Special Topics in Health Humanities: Health and Performance

This course introduces students to the intersection of the fields of performance and health.  Performance theories and practices, broadly related to actions, spaces, time, bodies/embodiment and viewer/audience/receiver, can be helpful to invite critical thinking around health, wellbeing, care and medicine.  As a class, we will draw on examples and readings from theatre, anthropology, cultural studies, sociology and the health sciences.  Students will examine critical issues related to: 1) performance, play and care (caring attention & objectifying gazes), 2) performance, cultural production and health/medicine, and 3) performance theories applied to health, medicine & health care training.  Examples will come from a range of different contexts including: health and community settings, therapeutic practices, medical education, health care provider training, artistic and cultural practices, and Canadian theatre.

Fall 2021

Three dancers in feathery costumes on stage, one is seated in wheel chair, others leap

HLTB30H3F: Current Issues in Health: Life After the Pandemic; An Interdisciplinary Approach to Planetary Health 

This course critically examines the effects that COVID-19 has had on our society, our environment, and our health. COVID-19, the worst pandemic in a century, rapidly transformed the world, turning routine activities, like going to the grocery store or shaking someone’s hand, into matters of life and death. It has exposed the weaknesses of healthcare, public health, and economic systems worldwide and forced horrifying decisions about how to ration resources and care for the sick and the dying. 

This course will examine the context, constraints, and opportunities of the pandemic as problems that are the product of political, economic, and imaginative limits. As the world returns to a new normal, key issues have emerged out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students will learn critical thinking skills and gain exposure to these emerging issues in public health and healthcare.

Topics include: social isolation, health equity, food security, fake news, vaccine hesitancy, and climate change, among others. Grounded examples in assigned readings will emphasize a Canadian context, while our lectures and discussions will consider the global context. 

This course will be of interest to students in health studies, environmental science, human geography, and more.

New Course! HLTB60H3Y: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Disability Studies

This course is an introduction to interdisciplinary disability studies through humanities, social science, and fine arts, with a strong basis in a social justice orientation that understands disability as a relational, social, and historical symbolic category, and ableism as a form of oppression. Students will develop strong critical skills in the interpretation and analysis of artworks (i.e., the written word, visual images, performance) and theoretical texts. Topics including representations of disability in media, including literature and film; medicalization and tropes of disability; disability activism; and intersectional analysis of disability in relation to gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity, and class.
HLT Major & Minors: Counts toward the Health Policy BA Major and the Health Humanities Minor, suggested for the second year (following A02 & A03)
Other Majors & Minors: Excellent complement to social science and humanities majors  

HLT/SOCC51H3S: Special Topics in Health & Society: Obesity: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions 

According to the World Health Organization, over 1.9 billion adults and 340 million children and adolescents are obese. Obesity is a significant issue in society, with a wide range of causes, consequences, and potential solutions. Using a multidisciplinary approach, including social science, public health, medicine, and the humanities, we will critically examine the history of obesity and research evidence to date across a host of issues: individual factors related to lifestyle and behavior, as well as biological influences; physical and mental health; stigma, inequality, and discrimination; socioeconomic costs; and the role of the social determinants of health. A thorough analysis of the responses by key social institutions, including medicine, the economic system, and government, will be conducted. Finally, the challenges faced by regions beyond Western society will be reviewed.

HLTD08H3F: Special Topics in Health: Regenerative Medicine

This course will provide a broad-based overview of regenerative medicine. Students will use a basic and medical sciences approach to explore our understanding of the regenerative response, learn the fundamentals of stem cell biology, and examine the clinical use of embryonic stem cells (ESCs), adult stem cells including hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The challenges and benefits of stem cell use for tissue engineering as it relates to translational medicine will also be explored. Topics may vary depending on interests and current events. Students will use primary research literature and an inquiry-based approach to critically analyze the use of stem cells in both therapeutic and non-therapeutic applications. Research ethics will also be discussed as the field continues to offer both hope and hype for human health and disease.

HLTD12H3F: Special Topics in Health: Health Promotion

This seminar course provides an overview of concepts in health promotion and disease prevention in Canada and globally. The course will take a retrospective analysis of arguments for health promotion as part of the strategies for addressing population health challenges and closing health inequality gaps in Canada. We will also delve into some theoretical concepts and frameworks from the social and behavioral disciplines employed in health promotion practice. Finally, we will discuss ethical considerations for designing and implementing health promotion activities and campaigns, as well as program planning and evaluation, and community engagement and advocacy. The course is structured to be interactive and participatory in order to stimulate interesting class discussions on the range of topics and themes. 

HLTD21H3F: Special Topics in Health: Health Equity, Anti-Black Racism and the art of Health Promotion

While the foundations of health promotion are rooted in promoting equity and social justice, it is clear that these foundations are not promoting meaningful success for Black communities.  In 2020 the Toronto Board of Health declared that anti-Black racism is a public health crisis, and research has clearly shown that Black community members across Canada experience disproportionate poor health outcomes as demonstrated by almost any measure of health and wellbeing—e.g., life expectancy; chronic disease prevalence; premature birth rates. In this course, we will explore the intersections of the social determinants of health and anti-Black racism. We will interrogate the current crisis of disproportionality faced by the Black communities within the COVID-19 pandemic while also responding to new instances of police brutality. The course offers students the opportunity to challenge the neutrality we often experience in health promotion practice and instead offer concrete ways for the field to become artful, outspoken, intentional, and honest in increasing our ability to radically shift how we promote health and wellbeing for Black communities.

HLTD48H3S: Special Topics in Health: Current Issues in Global Health 

Interest in mental health and substance use (MHSU) has intensified locally and globally. As an advanced seminar course, Global Perspectives on Mental Health and Substance Use will provide a forum for in-depth discussions of theoretical and practical issues, challenges, and successes concerning mental health, mental illness, and substance use and abuse. We will explore social and cultural perspectives in multiple global contexts. Topics will include: concepts of the mind and the person; power and identity; notions of recovery, stigma, and resilience; the responses of nation-states, health care, and other institutions; and the intersectional factors that influence opportunities for health and experiences of illness. 

HLTC48H3S is not an anti-requisite; if you have taken HLTC48 you may also take HLTD48. 

HLTD50H3F: Special Topics in Health Humanities: Arts-Based Health Research in Action

Central to this course is the question: how can artistic processes be used as or within research to study human health?  In this course, students will learn about using arts methods to 1) explore a health-related topic of their choice, and 2) reflect on their own positionality within research.  Topics include conceptual foundations of ABHR (as knowing and understanding the world through bodies, senses, emotions, imagination, actions, materials and spaces), exploring human health through particular arts methods/forms (e.g. theatre, dance, narrative, visual arts, textiles, digital media, among others), positionality of the researcher, relational/community and aesthetic accountability (ethics and aesthetics), academic legitimacy, as well as interdisciplinary challenges and opportunities. Students will have the opportunity to develop their own ABHR project. 

**While not required, students may find it helpful if they have taken HLTC55H3: Methods in Arts-Based Health Research


Summer 2021

Please note that even though the course codes may be the same, the topics addressed in Special Topics Courses may be different from year to year.

HLTD53H3 Y: Special Topics in Health Humanities: Improv’ing Health and Care Through Drama

Healthcare is a performance and theatre can improv(e) healthcare. This course will explore the question: if healthcare is a performance, how is it performed and how can applied theatre and improvisation practices enhance and support the performance of health and medicine? Applied drama and improv uses the principles, tools, and practices of theatre in non-theatrical settings for the purposes of skill building, reflection, and innovation. We will investigate how theatre adds value to health science education and clinical spaces. We will explore how theatre can be used as a methodology for research dissemination and how a performance-based approach to research can be used to advocate for health policy, engage the public in discussions of heath, and explore complex topics such as patient care, public health, and bioethics. We will further examine how health and healthcare are represented on stage through health-based plays, and witness how engaging with theatrical spaces can create supportive and healthy communities. The course does not require any previous performance or theatre experience; all you need is an interest and willingness to play.

HLTD22H3: Special Topics in Health -- Sleep: Structure, Function, and Pathology  

Sleep is a universal, carefully regulated physiological and behavioral process. Getting quality sleep and enough of it is essential for development, neurocognitive performance, mood regulation, and maintenance of bodily homeostasis. Disturbed sleep in its various manifestations is associated with adverse health outcomes and carries a huge economic burden at the societal level. This course emphasizes the growing interface between sleep and health by covering topics falling under the following categories: (1) Sleep structure and regulation across the lifespan, (2) Dreams theories, types, and disturbances, (3) Sleep disorders, (4) Basics of polysomnography and other diagnostic tools of sleep medicine, and (5) Clinical cases covering a broad spectrum of sleep disorders. The course aims to develop sleep health literacy in students to enhance their health and well-being and to use the knowledge they gain in their future undertakings in science and practice.  

HLTD21H3: Special Topics in Health Studies: Food Systems, Food Security & Health: Challenges & Opportunities

This course examines the connections between food systems, food security and health from an interdisciplinary perspective. This course introduces students to structural factors shaping today’s dominant global food system(s) and potential strategies to support food systems change. Students will identify, research, and critically analyze a food system intervention intended to promote food justice, food sovereignty and health equity, and present their findings through a research paper and a second knowledge translation product, adapted for a popular audience. Case studies from high, middle- and low-income countries will be used to illustrate course concepts. 

HLTD08H3: Special Topics in Health Sciences: Community Health Assessment and Program Evaluation

This course will introduce students to theories and practical tools to inform an integrated approach to the program planning and evaluation cycle. Students will gain an understanding of theoretical underpinnings in evaluation, understand the role of program theory, discern between evaluation designs including formative and summative evaluations and gain applied skills in the evaluation process. Specifically, students will learn how to conduct a community needs assessment, engage stakeholders, develop logic models, identify evaluation questions with relevant process and outcome indicators, identify appropriate data collection methods and complete the knowledge translation and exchange cycle. Special considerations in conducting culturally appropriate evaluations will be discussed throughout.

HLTC48H3: Special Topics in Health: Climate Change and Human Health

This course introduces students to the multi-faceted topic of climate change, its impacts, and associated health burdens through an examination of the social and ecological determinants of health. This course provides an evaluation framework for how climate change affects human health and interventions for addressing these impacts with a focus on vulnerability and health equity.

This course critically examines the science of climate change and its effect on human health. Students will have the opportunity to apply a health equity lens to examine the role of social, economic, ecological, and environmental determinants of health, and to unpack the root causes of climate change and the disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations and communities. This course will stimulate critical thinking using an ‘un-siloed’ and interdisciplinary approach. Students will learn to evaluate how climate change impacts human health using established public health tools such as vulnerability assessments and health equity impact assessments. Students will also learn basic project management and gain experience using project management tools.

Topics include: food security, planetary health, and disaster and emergency management (DEM), among others. Grounded examples in assigned readings will emphasize a Canadian context, while our lectures and discussions will consider sustainable development and the global context.  

This course will be of interest to upper-year students in health studies, environmental science, human geography, and more.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites; all are welcome.

Fall 2020/Winter 2021

New Course! HLTB31H3 - Current Issues in Health II: Synergies Among Science, Policy, and Action

This course offers an interdisciplinary examination of the social, economic, epidemiological, and environmental contexts of current and pressing issues in health, including global health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This course will explore the science that underpin policy responses and actions to the COVID-19 global pandemic, and the policy and social change agendas that inform science, drawing lessons from SARS, H1N1, Ebola and other health issues and crises. This course will invoke critical thinking and analyses to reflect on scientific uncertainty, infodemics, and the precautionary principle as we grapple with shifting population behaviours and adopting risk mitigation strategies. Students will be provided the opportunity to apply a health equity lens to examine the role of social, economic, and environmental determinants of health, as well as the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on vulnerable populations and communities.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites; all are welcome. HLTA02/03 recommended. 

HLTC47 - Special Topics in Health: 2SLGBTQI+ Sexuality, Gender, and Health

This course takes a critical approach to examining 2SLGBTQI+ sexuality, gender, and health. Much scholarship focuses on the unique vulnerabilities and health outcomes of 2SLGBTQI+ communities as populations, and at-risk minority groups. Moving away from such characterization—while exploring issues of health equity and access—this course will consider how health is a social institution, one that exists in relation to other institutions such as school, work, and family. Exploring intersectional perspectives and unique issues faced by 2SLGBTQI+ people historically and over the life course, students will gain foundational knowledge and nuanced understanding of key issues and approaches, and emerging frontiers in scholarship and social change.  

Topics to be covered include: trans health and affirming care, cancer care, making families, housing and homelessness, and aging. Grounded examples in assigned readings will emphasize a Canadian context, while our lectures and discussions will consider international perspectives and global flows.  

This course will be of interest to upper-year students health studies, anthropology, sociology, sexual diversity studies, and more.

HLTC48H3 - Special Topics in Health: Climate Change and Environmental Health

This course introduces students to the multi-faceted topic of climate change, its impacts, and associated health burdens through an examination of the social and ecological determinants of health. This course provides an evaluation framework for how climate change affects human health and interventions for addressing these impacts with a focus on vulnerability and health equity.

New Course! HLTB44H3- Introduction to Pathophysiology and the Etiology of Disease

This course focuses on functional changes in the body that result from the disruption of the normal balance of selected systems of the human body. Building on the knowledge of human biology, students will learn the biological basis, etiopathology and clinical manifestations of selected diseases and other perturbations, with a focus on cellular and tissue alterations in children.

Pre-requisite: [HLTA02H3 and HLTA03H3] and [BIOA11H3 or BIOA01H3]

New Course! HLTB30H3F - Current Issues in Health: How to Live in a Pandemic: Interdisciplinary Thinking about COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that health is a deeply interdisciplinary issue. Taught by an award-winning team of professors, this new course will help students learn to confidently navigate--in real time--the range of research questions, designs, and disciplinary knowledge needed to respond to the complexity of the emergent global COVID-19 pandemic. Interacting with a range of cutting-edge, thought-provoking, and creative readings and assignments, students will be actively involved in investigating how today's top health concern involves new--and not-so-new--cultural, political, artistic, geographical, historical, and policy concerns that make the COVID-19 pandemic a truly interdisciplinary phenomenon. Part II (Winter) course code TBA

Prerequisites: No pre-requisite; all are welcome. HLTA03/A03 recommended.

HLTC52F - Special Topics in Health Humanities: Creative Research Practices in Aging
Growing old is not merely a physiological or biological phenomenon. In this course we will examine older age from an arts- and humanities-based perspective, with particular focus on the role of arts-based therapies, creative engagement, and humanities-informed health research initiatives involving older people and/or the aging process. What do arts-based health research methods add to our understanding of growing older, and how can these insights be implemented at the micro-, mezzo-, and macro-levels of personal conduct, health research and policy? How might the rigorously creative (re)imagination of aging, older age, and caregiving provide enhanced resources that enable health providers--and the public at large--to challenge prevalent, and largely negative, personal and cultural narratives of growing older? With reference to a range of concrete examples in arts-based health research in aging, students will learn how creative practices (including digital storytelling, improvisational theatre, and narrative, among others) have been used in the context of addressing health issues related to aging, older age, and intergenerational relationships in a diverse range of local, national, and international settings.

HLTD53F - Special Topics in Health Humanities: Disability Arts & Culture
This unique course offers an opportunity for undergraduate students to engage with the vibrant field of disability arts through scholarly and popular readings, discussion of artistic works, and participation in an applied term project related to the upcoming exhibition #CripRitual at the Doris McCarthy Gallery co-curated by Dr. Hartblay and collaborators. Throughout the term, students will: review the core concepts of the disability studies; learn about the concepts of “disability culture” and “disability justice” as developed by scholars, artists, and activists; practice analyzing artworks through a disability culture lens; learn and/or review the core tenets of disability access; learn about disability access practices in gallery and museum exhibition (including COVID-19 related innovations); and have an opportunity to interview working artists in the field of disability arts. Students will have the opportunity revise their artist interviews to be posted to the #CripRitual exhibition website. Course readings will include the textbook Studying Disability Arts and Culture: An Introduction by Petra Kuppers and excerpts from other works.

Prerequisites: HLTB50, good academic standing, or permission of the instructor (students in ACM interested in the course are encouraged to contact the instructor for permission).

HLTD04H3 (Fall) & HLTD08H3* (Winter) - Special Topics in Health: Implementation Science in Global Health
Do you have an interest in learning how health-related research is translated into policy, practice, and meaningful impact? Are you interested in conducting independent research through a two-semester based course, with the chance to present your findings at an international conference?  If so, then this course may be for you. Health practitioners have generally been successful in developing evidence-based health interventions to solve public health problems, however, there have been challenges in translating and scaling-up these interventions to save and improve lives in an equitable manner in low- and middle-income countries. This course is designed to provide students with in-depth knowledge of the role of implementation science in scaling health interventions and how these lessons might be applied to improve global health equity. Through case studies and research projects, students will review and employ implementation science frameworks, such as the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research, to identify key factors in the development and adoption of specific interventions/technologies. Students will learn about the importance and practice of implementation science in the context of specific health interventions/technologies and the unique socio-cultural, financial and logistical constraints that are present in such settings.

Implementation Science in Global Health is a two-semester research-based course (HLTD04H3 in the fall, and HLTD08H3 in the spring) where students conduct in-class research on implementation science in scaling health interventions in the context of global health equity. Students will have the unique opportunity to present their implementation science research findings to a scientific audience at the United for Sight Global Health and Innovations Conference (GHIC) that is set to take place at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in April 2021. GHIC is the world’s leading and largest global health conference and students will have the opportunity to network with over 2,000 professionals and students from 55 countries, contribute to their overall research profile and build the skills and experiences needed to communicate confidently across cultures in both academic and informal settings.

Prerequisites: At least 1.5 C-level HTL courses. HLTD04H3 is prerequisite for HLTD08H3.

HLTD21H3F - Special Topics in Health: Environmental contaminants, vulnerability and toxicity
This course is designed to provide an in-depth understanding of the potential effects on human health of exposure to environmental contaminants, with special attention to population groups particularly vulnerable to toxic insults. Through lectures, guest speakers, case studies and group projects, the course will cover these specific topics:
1)           Methods for the evaluation of environmental health,
2)           Environmental exposure and vulnerability, and
3)           Classes of contaminants: sources, pathways, health effects and mechanisms of toxicity.
Furthermore, students will become familiar with case studies that illustrate the role of interdisciplinary research in studying complex environmental health problematics.

Prerequisites: BIOA11H3, HLTB22H3, ANTC67H3 or HLTC27H3, HLTC22H3 and HLTC24H3.

HLTD12H3S - Special Topics in Health: Population health approaches to healthy neighbourhood designs
The neighbourhoods in which we are born into, live, work, play, and age influences our health and wellbeing across our lifespan. Globally, the rapid rise of urbanization, economic and population growth has contributed to increased levels of air pollution, physical inactivity, unhealth diets, sedentary behaviours, noise, and social isolation. Growing evidence has shown that designing neighbourhoods that are more conducive to healthy living can reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases, injuries, mental illness, and mortality. In this course, we will apply an interdisciplinary approach to understanding how planning and public health intersect to promote the creation of healthy built environments and achieve better health outcomes. Specifically, we will explore how population health research promotes the adoption of interventions and policies targeting healthy neighbourhood designs to impact health and wellbeing of populations.

HLTD21H3S - Special Topics - Enabling Health & Well-Being and Reducing Inequities in Cities: an investigation into the World Health Organization
This course provides a foundational understanding of the work of the World Health Organization (WHO), root causes of ill health, and health equity.  It draws on this foundation to delve into undrstanding how the WHO concetualizes equity, its initiatives at the city-level (global + local = "global" health) that seek to improve equity, and investigates how this work does or does not align with theory.  The course is designed to foster critical thinking and personal reflection to imagine an improved way forward for the WHO around health equity in cities.

Prerequisite:  Completion of 1.5 credits at the C-level in HLT courses from the program requirements from one of the Major/Major Co-operative programs in Health Studies

HLTD23H3S - Special Topics - Inequities for Women with Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)
This course will introduce the types of FGM/C, cultures that practice it, and varying perceptions on the practice.  We will explore the inequitable health outcomes women face in the west related to their FGM/C and doctors' preparedness to treat this problem.
Considering the role of the socio-cultural environment will help us to delve into different perspectives across natal and diasporic contexts.  We will explore and critique a multitude of ways of researching this topic, comparing and contrasting methodological and theoretical approaches.

Prerequisite: Completion of 1.5 credits at the C-Level in HLT courses from the program requirements from one of the Major/Major Co-operative programs in Health Studies