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University of Michigan

Course last offered: Fall 2000
Page last updated: October 29, 2008

Research-based Health Activism

Social Science 360.003

Monday, Wednesday 10-12 a.m.

Professor Max Heirich
Peter Lurie, M.D., M.P.H.
Institute for Social Research, Room 5055
Office hours: Tuesdays 10-12, Wednesdays 1-2
Phone: 936-0552

The United States is plagued by a plethora of health problems, ranging from the effects of tobacco use to violence to environmental contamination to lack of access to medical care for large numbers of Americans, particularly the poor and members of minority groups. It is the premise of this course that the collection and presentation of relatively simple data in a form understandable to policymakers can have a significant impact upon health policy in this country. The course will provide a brief overview of relevant research methods, introduce a series of lecturers who have used research-based health activism to affect policy and organize students in teams to collaboratively develop a data-based project that can be used to influence health policy in an area of the students’ choosing. The main focus of the semester will be on executing that project.

For this course, public health is defined broadly to encompass such areas as access to health care, food safety, tobacco use, illicit drug use, environmental exposures, occupational health, violence, public health aspects of medical illnesses such as AIDS or cancer. We encourage you to develop your own projects that reflect your own interests and abilities. However, we have begun developing some projects that may be suitable for you and which may be easier to carry out.  These are: 1. Pricing differentials between drugs for humans and animals; 2. Pricing for AIDS drugs; 3. Working with needle exchange programs in Detroit; 4. Examining the effects of speed limit changes or other automobile safety laws on accident and mortality rates in Michigan; and 5. Working with church groups to increase access to health services in Detroit.

Required reading


Hulley SB, Cummings SR, eds. Designing Clinical Research. Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore 1988 (selected chapters)
Copies of this book have been ordered and are available at Shaman Drum

Selected articles (to be handed out in class)

Moore S, Wolfe SM, Lindes D, Douglas CE.   Epidemiology of failed tobacco control legislation. Journal of the American Medical Association 1994; 272:1171-5.
Lurie P, et al. The Swine Flu vaccination debacle (unpublished book chapter)
Lurie P, et al. Aspirin and Reyes Syndrome -- deaths that could have been prevented (unpublished book chapter)
Lurie P, et al. The regulation of ethylene oxide in the workplace (unpublished book chapter)

Additional reading materials will be assigned as the class develops and students’ specific areas of interest become clearer.

Reading Assignments

Reading assignments are intentionally light so that students can concentrate on preparing and executing their protocols.

For September 8

Lurie P, et al. The Swine Flu vaccination debacle (unpublished book chapter)
Lurie P, et al. Aspirin and Reyes Syndrome -- deaths that could have been prevented (unpublished book chapter)

For September 10

Hulley and Cummings. Chapter 1.

For September 15

Lurie P, et al. The regulation of ethylene oxide in the workplace (unpublished book chapter)

For September 22

Hulley and Cummings. Chapters 6, 7, and 8

For September 29

Hulley and Cummings. Chapter 5

For October 26

Hulley and Cummings. Chapter 10

Course Requirements

1. Regular attendance and active participation are expected and will be factored into your evaluation.   The course schedule is attached.
2. The assigned readings must be done before the session in which they will be discussed.
3. Working with a three-person team, you will prepare an approximately five-page protocol describing your research project.
4. You will execute your final project; this may take the form of collecting and presenting data, making a presentation before a policy-making body, using the legal system to further your public health objective, submitting an article or letter to a professional journal, etc.
5. You will give an oral presentation of your research project to the class.


Class participation: 10%
Revised protocol: 20%
Research project: 45%
In-class presentation: 25%

Class participation will be used to assign grades when these fall on the borderline between two grades.

Research-based Health Activism

Social Science 360.003

Instructors: Heirich, Lurie
Monday, Wednesday 10-12 a.m.


Identifying health problems in the U.S.


Ethics of advocacy research (Heirich)
Examples of research-based activism (Lurie)


Identifying health problems in the U.S.


Examples of research-based activism (Lurie and Heirich)


Deadline for assembling teams
Begin to identify projects (small groups)
Works in progress


Works in progress
Methods: Study design (Lurie)


Methods: Study design (Lurie)


Methods: Interviewing (Heirich)
Methods: Networking (Heirich)


No class; meet with Lurie


No class; meet with Lurie


Protocols due
Guest lecture


Works in progress


Works in progress


Revised protocols due
Guest lecture


Data analysis; causal inference (Heirich)
Methods: As needed


Works in progress


Works in progress
Guest lecture


No class
Work on projects


No class
Work on projects


Works in progress


Works in progress
Guest lecture


Graphic presentation of data (Lurie)


Using the media (Lurie)


Using the media (Lurie)




Student presentations


Student presentations


Student presentations


Student presentations 

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