This interdisciplinary program brings together insights from a wide variety of academic disciplines to explore human health through a Bachelor of Arts program focusing on social science and liberal arts approaches. In contrast to a natural science approach, it examines how health and disease are not just rooted in biology, but are also shaped by social and cultural influences.  

In the program, students examine how health is influenced by global, national, regional, and local forces. These forces include biocultural variation, sociocultural conceptions, social inequalities, political and economic processes, geospatial diversity, and planetary health. Marshalling scholarship from the social sciences and liberal arts, the program offers students the opportunity to learn how experts from different disciplines approach questions of health, healing practices, and health care. Students enrolled in the major or minor may go on to pursue careers in public health, global health, health care management, research, education, policy, advocacy, law, nonprofits, social entrepreneurship, industry, or other career areas.


Student Perspectives

  • Zoe van Vlaanderen

    Building the Foundation for MPH program at Columbia University

    Zoe van Vlaanderen ’20 began her UVM career enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences Integrated Social Sciences Program (now called the LASP program) which allowed her to take classes with a small group of motivated students with similar interests. “We lived in the same building in the Living Learning Center at UVM and took the same classes together. It was great to part of this exciting learning community right from the start.”

    The rich mix of interdisciplinary courses informed her interest in translating social and behavioral health theory into public health practice. She is graduating with a B.A. in health and society, with minors in statistics and economics. Beginning this fall van Vlaanderen will start a masters of public health degree program at Columbia University.

    She developed extensive research experience as a UVM undergraduate, working with Professor Jane Kolodinsky, director of UVM’s Center for Rural Studies. The project, funded by a USDA grant, explored ways to develop food delivery systems in rural economies.

    “I worked on a foodbox program, which brings together small farmers with local general stores. The foodbox provided fresh produce for customers who couldn’t afford the cost of a whole CSA season.”

    This experience encouraged her to seek out further research experience, and the following summer she worked full-time for the Ohio State University investigating opioid addiction in Appalachia. She also spent a semester studying at the University of Ghana, where she took classes like The Healthcare System in Ghana, Global Health Security, and Culture and Reproductive Health. These experiences have affirmed her desire to pursue a career in public health research.

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A Social Science Perspective on Health

As a complement to STEM's approaches to health in the natural sciences and to clinical approaches in applied health professions, the HSOC degree provides a critical social science perspective on health and healing in human populations. Social science adds deconstructionist, constructionist, and political economy frameworks to the picture. These frameworks point to clues for detecting the ways in which all knowledge, including scientific and clinical knowledge, is shaped by different perspectives, values, priorities, identities, cultural frameworks, social conventions, scientific paradigms, and social, political, and financial interests.

Health from a Social Science Perspective

Overall the curriculum emphasizes social determinants of health as an overarching framework to analyzing and understanding human health.

Social science frameworks:

  • give us insight into how health and healing are defined, perceived, and enacted in different ways depending on the cultural and/or social setting, and
  • help us to see how health and healing practices are influenced by historical legacies, cultural traditions, ecological settings, social institutions, political and economic systems, and geospatial entanglements, and 
  • allow us to examine how and why access to health and health care is often unevenly distributed along the lines of race, ethnicity, nationality, region, class, gender, age, and sexual orientation within and across populations.