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Last updated:

May 17, 2022


6 months


This course includes:

6 months

Badge on Completion

Certificate of completion

6 months


Teaches students to frame public health issues using a life course perspective. Introduces and examines basic principles of human development across the life span, from the prenatal period through senescence, and the idea that health outcomes reflect developmental processes. Provides a conceptual framework with which to understand the interrelationships among biological, psychological, and social factors and their influence on development and health. Also illustrates the application of this perspective to gain a critical understanding of public health issues.

Course Objectives

After taking this course, students should be able to:
  • Describe the components of a life course perspective on health, the advantages of using this approach in public health, and the challenges involved in doing so.
  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the life course and human development and its relationship to individual health. In particular, students should be able to identify the meaning and measurement of "health" at particular life stages and articulate interrelationships among the biological, psychological, behavioral and social processes that shape health across the life course.
  • Develop a conceptual framework illustrating a life course approach to a specific outcome of concern to public health.


As assigned on Readings page.

Course Requirements

The course is organized into three substantive components. Part One consists of the first two lectures and associated readings, which cover the elements of a multilevel, life course perspective on health and the process of constructing a conceptual framework. Obesity is used as an example for thinking about the multilevel factors that influence health and a life course approach. The first Live Talk is devoted to discussion of these foundational concepts. Part Two consists of the remaining lectures and readings, which cover life course stages in sequence: the fetal period; infancy and early childhood; school age and adolescence; adulthood; and later life. The lecture for each stage provides an overview of the factors defining and shaping health in that life stage. The first set of readings for each stage complements the lecture. The second set of readings for each stage concerns a specific issue related to a life course perspective on health. These applications are intended to help students master the elements of a life course perspective and to allow students to consider specific issues in more depth. The remaining Live Talks cover the life stages in sequence. Part Three consists of individual work developing a conceptual framework for a health outcome of the student�s choice. The outcome must be of relevance to public health, and students may not choose obesity as an outcome. Students must build their framework through a series of assignments in which they identify an outcome, draft a conceptual framework illustrating the determinants of this outcome, receive feedback on their draft from course faculty (and peers if they wish), finalize their framework, and write a short description of the framework.

Course Curriculum

    • Lecture 1: The Life Course, Human Development, and Health; Contexts, Causation, and Conceptualization (M.E. Hughes) 01:00:00
    • Lecture 2: Cross Cutting Themes, Methodology and the Life Course Perspective in Public Health (M.E. Hughes) 01:10:00
    • Lecture 3: Multilevel and Life Course Approaches to Obesity (Robert Blum) 00:55:00
    • Lecture 4: Fetal Health and Development (Robert Blum) 01:10:00
    • Lecture 5: Early Childhood: Survival, Growth, and Development (Robert Blum) 00:55:00
    • Lecture 6: Health and Development of School Age Children (Robert Blum) 01:00:00
    • Lecture 7: Adolescent Development (Robert Blum) 00:55:00
    • Lecture 8: Health in Adulthood (M.E. Hughes) 00:55:00
    • Lecture 9: Health and Functioning in Later Life (M.E. Hughes) 00:55:00
    • Life Course Perspectives on Health Assignments work 01:00:00

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