Lang Center
for Civic & Social Responsibility

Public Health

Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and communities through “the promotion of healthy lifestyles, research for disease and injury prevention, and detection and control of infectious diseases” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Public health addresses the health of populations that can span from a small, local neighborhood to the world. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to identify and solve problems regarding the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of populations, public health draws from biomedicine, biomedical technology and engineering, public policy, economics, social psychology, environmental health, epidemiology, and biostatistics. Public health not only treats ongoing epidemics and health issues, it also makes an effort to prevent them from happening by implementing educational campaigns and programs, recommending services, and conducting research. The promotion of health-care equity, quality, and accessibility to address health disparities is also an essential part of public health.

Engaged Scholarship Examples 

Elizabeth Erler ‘20 is a Lang Scholar. Zone 3 of Guatemala City contains one of the largest garbage dumps in Central America. Elizabeth’s Lang Project, Alianza de salud de zona tres [Zone 3 Health Alliance], will build upon the existing network of neighborhood presidents to bring increased access to preventative and chronic healthcare to the residents of Zone 3. This network of health advocates will work to promote awareness about and treatment of preventable but deadly illnesses such as malnutrition and diarrheal illnesses which devastate these communities and establish long-term community plans to treat chronic diseases including asthma, diabetes, and addiction.

Aarti Rao ‘14 was a Lang Scholar whose project Neonatal Care Geographic Information Systems (NCGIS), aimed to analyze and increase the efficacy of current Bhoruka Charitable Trust (BCT) maternal and child projects using GIS technology, and to implement a web-based mobile health notification system to increase community awareness of ongoing BCT services. The project goal was to assess, visualize, and ultimately work to overcome the social barriers preventing access to adequate infant and maternal care by combining community-based and technological approaches. Aarti conducted in-depth survey work and interviews to understand the root cause behind the high infant mortality rate and poor standards of health in Churu, India, and based upon this data collection, published information about best practices for home births and emergency contact information. This information has been shared with village elders and expectant women.

Bella Liu ‘07 had worked with children affected by HIV/AIDS in the states for three years before she applied for the Lang Opportunity Project. Her passion to address the situation of this vulnerable population was re-fueled by the demonstrated need she observed in her home country, China, where a blood-selling disaster in the 1990's left thousands of rural families parent-less and reeling from the socio-psychological side-effects of HIV/AIDS. In collaboration with the AIDS charity Chi Heng Foundation, Bella designed The Big Sister Big Brother Program to bring rural youth affected by the disaster into the cities and expose them to one-on-one mentorship, socio-psychological healing exercises, and most importantly the possibilities offered by higher education. A primary goal of her project was to address the psychological well-being of the children; a secondary side-effect of its success was the closing of the social gap between the rural students and their urban mentors. Bella hopes that hands-on participation and social activism around the blood-selling disaster and the HIV/AIDS epidemic will reduce the social stigmatization faced by vulnerable youth and increase their access to greater flows of cultural capital that would otherwise be unavailable to them.


Key Faculty & Staff

Student Groups

  • Global Health Forum | Contact: Jaydeep Sangha​ '21
    • A group whose mission is to empower students and community members to improve global health through raising awareness, cultivating partnerships, and pressuring political initiative.
  • Sexual Health Advocates | Contact: Helen Hawver 
    • This group aims to provide students with access to safe sexual health supplies and with trained, residence-based peer advocates who can discuss sex, intimate relationships, sexual health, sexuality, gender, and relevant on- and off-campus resources.
  • Swat Doulas | Contact: TBA
    • ​Students hold meetings and watch films together on the topic of supporting a birthing mother. Students may attend weekend-long trainings on the scope and specifics of the role of a doula, which is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth (DONA International).


Relevant Courses

Fall 2020
Fall 2019
  • ECON 075 - Health Economics
  • BIOL 034 - Evolution 
  • BIOL 036- Ecology 
  • PHIL 052- Bioethics
  • ENVS 023 - Politics of Population 
  • PSYC 001 - Intro to Psychology 
  • PSYC 037 - Multicultural Psychology 
  • PSYC 103 - Research Practicum: Behavioral Neuropharmacology 
  • PYSC 135 - Seminar in Social Psychology
Spring 2020
  • ANTH 049B - Comparative Perspectives on the Body 
  • BIOL 009 - Our Food
  • ENGL 002M - Medical Writing and Rhetoric 

Other examples of relevant courses at Swarthmore (check course schedules for offerings each semester):

  • ANTH 043 - Culture, Health, & Illness 
  • ANTH 049B - Comparative Perspectives on the Body 
  • ANTH 053B - Anthropology of Public Health 
  • ANTH 133 - Anthropology of Biomedicine
  • ECON 075 - Health Economics  
  • ENGL 002M - Medical Writing and Rhetoric 
  • FREN 017A - First-Year Seminar: Literature and Medicine 
  • POLS 048 - The Politics of Population 
  • PSYC 038 - Clinical Psychology
  • PSYC 108 - Research Practicum in Clinical Psychology
  • PSYC 109 - Research Practicum in Social and Emotional Well-Being
  • SOAN 020M - Race, Gender, Class and Environment    
  • SOCI 050B - Medicine as a Profession

TriCo Courses

  • Bi-Co Health Studies Courses for Spring 2019
  • Bryn Mwar Health Studies Program
  • Haverford Civic and Community Engagement Courses in Health Studies
  • Health & Societies at the University of Pennsylvania 


On-Campus Opportunities

Off-Campus Opportunities

Public Health Lang Center Associate