GHS 208 - Women's Health and Empowerment

This course will provide core knowledge and skills from several disciplines on how to improve women's health and well-being globally. It aims to expand students' understanding of the interconnected factors that influence women's health and empowerment, including foundations of sexual and reproductive health, economic development, political frameworks and global reproductive rights, demographic and social changes, basic principles of empowerment theory, educational opportunities, and advances in gender equality. The course will be taught in a seminar style with plenty of opportunities for group discussions and case studies, and will draw from the experiences of the students.


At the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Explain the ways in which social, economic, and cultural factors can both promote and impede women's and girls' health
  • Analyze how men's and boys' involvement contributes to women's health and empowerment
  • Explore how girls' education contributes to individual, community, and national development
  • Discuss how gender influences the Millennium Development Goals
  • Evaluate case studies of interventions designed to improve women's health and empowerment in differing cultural and national contexts
  • Recognize macro level political, institutional, and structural factors that impact women's health and empowerment in relation to local, cultural, and regional contexts
  • Discuss the impact of women's health on the advances in other sectors including child health, education, economic development, and social stability
  • Recognize the major institutions, policies, and non-governmental organizations that influence women's health and empowerment
  • Have a better understanding of the historical context of politics, policies, and laws related to women's health and human rights
  • Analyze the contrasting perspectives and changing paradigms on women's health and empowerment among epidemiologists, demographers, economists, human rights activists and development specialists

Course Content

The sessions follow a life course framework and include the following topics:

  • Educational empowerment and girls’ health
  • Adolescent sexual and reproductive health
  • Maternal and child health, family planning, and abortion politics
  • History and shifts in global reproductive health policy
  • Demographic and societal changes and their relationship to women’s empowerment, economic growth and environmental resources
  • Population decline and postponement of childbearing in industrialized countries
  • Sexually transmitted and other reproductive tract infections
  • Health issues of older women

Course directors

  • Anke Hemmerling, MD, PhD, MPH
  • Mara Decker, DrPH, MHS
  • Denise Dunning, PhD

Teaching format

Lectures, case study discussions

Course credits

2 units