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

  • Lindsay Aldrich

    A personalized path to an MPH, medical school

    "I transferred to UVM after attending a small liberal arts college in New England. As a pre-med undergraduate student, I was drawn in by the hospital on campus, UVM's medical school, and Burlington's general passion for health and well-being. At UVM, I wanted to strike a balance between my love for science, health, and the human experience. I paid close attention to courses I had been taking that really inspired me, courses from all across the university like Health Care Ethics, Issues in Women's Health, Issues in Contemporary Public Health, and Global Health, Development, and Diversity. I met with CAS Associate Dean Abigail McGowan, originally intending on planning an individually designed major. When she told me about the new Health and Society major, I found that it was exactly what I was dreaming of!  Now, I am so excited for the rest of my undergraduate career and have begun to dream up new and exciting plans for my future, such as earning an MPH, in addition to attending medical school." - Lindsay Aldrich '20

  • 1 of 3
  • >>

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.