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HLSC 3500: Critical Topics in Health Behavior

This is an undergraduate elective class in health education and health promotion focused on 3 main content areas: sexual health, tobacco, and obesity.

HLSC 3500: Critical Topics in Health Behavior


Students, please consult your syllabus and eCourse content for details about course assignments, grades, etc. This guide is to help you access required readings and library resources that you will need for your Dyad Project PART 1.

Course Description

Description: Behavioral skill building to encourage healthy lifestyle including healthy eating and physical activity choices that enables individuals to improve health and prevent disease. Examination of critical topics related to health behavior with a review effective interventions that promote community health and prevent disease.

Prerequisite: HLSC 2100

Text: None

Additional Materials: Various class materials (lecture notes, syllabus, articles, videos) may be downloaded for your section on eCourseware.  Required readings will be posted on eCourseware by course module.

Course Objectives

This course has a special focus on key health behavioral determinants:  tobacco, sexual health, and nutrition and physical activity as it relates to obesity prevention.  The course will include a review of best practices and effective behavioral interventions in each topic area. By the end of the course students will be able to:


Course Topics and Related Objectives:

Research Skills

  • Use University library resources to find and review peer reviewed journal articles related to health promotion programs to address a specific health issue
  • Synthesize research studies into a small-scale literature review related to a specific research question


Sexual Health:

  • Describe STI symptoms, transmission modes, and safer sex methods
  • Describe the prevalence, incidence, trends, risk factors, and disparities of common STI’s and unintended pregnancy
  • Identify best practices and evidence-based recommendations in sex education and STI prevention interventions.



  • Identify key historic events and milestones in tobacco control in the US
  • Identify health risks associated with tobacco use
  • Describe current tobacco use trends, disparities, and risk factors
  • Describe best practices and evidence-based recommendations for tobacco prevention interventions
  • Become certified in a tobacco cessation program



  • Define obesity and identify health risks
  • Describe trends, disparities and risk factors associated with obesity in the US.
  • Describe an obesogenic environment and how factors such as food deserts, food marketing, the built environment, workplace, school and home relate to obesity
  • Explain current evidence based dietary (MyPlate) and physical activity recommendations to prevent obesity
  • Describe best practices and evidence-based interventions for obesity prevention

Assignments and Grading Criteria

Grading and Assessment:

  1. Quizzes (4) (25%)
  2. Data Brief (DB) Assignments (3) (20%)
  3. Journal Article (JA) Assignment (3) (20%)
  4. Discussion Questions (3) (20%)
  5. ACS Cessation Training Completion (5%)
  6. Final Literature Review Paper (10%)


Quizzes (25%)

  • Quizzes will be based on the content covered in that specific week. They will be available at the start of the week and can be taken at any time up until the deadline. Students may refer back to the course readings when taking the quiz. However, quizzes will be timed, so students should thoroughly read the course readings prior to attempting each quiz. Quizzes MUST be taken independently – the order of questions and multiple choice answers will vary.
  • Make up quizzes will only be granted in the case of EXTREME extenuating circumstances and DOCUMENTATION must be submitted via e-mail to the instructor for consideration.


Data Brief (DB) Assignment (20%)

      A data brief is a compilation of information about a public health topic. It is based on complex data and summarizes it into a combination of text and graphics so it is easy for the reader to quickly understand.  Based on readings and resources provided during a specific course week, students will develop a data brief on a specific topic. The required information will be provided in the assignment instructions on eCourseware. The purpose of this assignment is for students to learn key information on each topic.  Students will also demonstrate that they can retrieve relevant information from a reliable source and succinctly present the information to others.


ACS Fresh Start Cessation Training (5%)

Students will access the American Cancer Society FRESH START Smoking Cessation Training from the following site and complete the training.


Journal Article (JA) Assignment (20%)

Students will use the research skills that they acquired early in the semester to find a relevant peer reviewed journal article on a health education / health promotion intervention or study related to the topic covered that week. After finding and reading the article, students will complete a worksheet (provided in eCourseware) that reports key information on the article and compares the article with another course reading for that week.


Consider using articles from one of the following peer reviewed journals:

  • American Journal of Health Promotion
  • Journal of School Health
  • Journal of Community Health
  • American Journal of Public Health
  • Journal of Adolescent Health
  • American Journal of Health Education
  • Health Education and Behavior
  • Health Promotion Practice
  • American Journal of Sexuality Education
  • Tobacco Control
  • Journal of Childhood Obesity


Discussion Questions (20%)

Discussion questions will be provided for the content covered in that specific week. Students are to first answer the question completely referring back to the readings posted using in text citations if appropriate. Do not include direct quotes – paraphrase. Initial responses to questions should be at least two paragraphs (5-7 each) in length and demonstrate critical thought. Students must then respond to at least TWO of their classmates’ posts in a substantive manner that fosters critical class discussion. 


Discussion Board Guidelines and Criteria

  1. Discussion questions will be posted in the beginning of the week (Monday) on selected weeks with all posts due on Sunday at 11:59pm (see course schedule).
  2. To earn full credit, students must post one original response (2 paragraphs in length) to the Discussion Question and then post at least TWO substantive comments on other students’ responses (three or more sentences).
  3. Post your original response within the first 2 days of the post so you can comment on other classmates’ posts.
  4. Review the discussion threads thoroughly before entering the discussion.
  5. Maintain threads by using the "Reply" button rather than starting a new topic.  You are expected to expand upon the discussion, not restate what has been said.
  6. Do not make insulting or inflammatory statements to other members of the discussion group. Be respectful of other's ideas.
  7. Respond in a thoughtful and timely manner.
  8. Use headings, paragraphs, and spacing as appropriate to improve readability. 
  9. Check spelling, grammar and punctuation.  Poor writing style will result in loss of points.
  10. Do NOT attach word documents or other files into the discussion board unless instructed.
  11. Do NOT copy and paste from another source without acknowledging the source.  If you use outside sources or links, you must comment on the information.
  12.  Express thought and application of learning objectives in your comments as described below:
    • your posts should have substance and help to further the discussion of course content. They should include contributions of additional ideas and sources, insights or questions about classmates' comments, connections to the course readings, or ways of applying the lessons from the course. As a rule of thumb, your comments should be at least several sentences in length.
    • Short comments, such as "Good idea" or "I agree," will NOT earn credit in this area. Explain why you agree or disagree, and add some examples to support your belief.
    • Comments that are unrelated to the topics at hand (for example, "I saw that movie, too!") will NOT earn credit. If you say you agree about something, please explain why you agree, and add an additional insight or a question.
    • Participation in discussion boards cannot be “made up” or submitted late for credit.
  13. The original post shall constitute 60% of the Discussion Question grade. The two responses shall constitute 40% of the Discussion Question grade.


Literature Review Paper (10%)

Students will choose one of three research questions related to 1) Tobacco  2) Obesity or 3) Sexual Health.  Students will perform a database search to find three peer reviewed journal articles related to their research question. Students will then compose a 3-4 page paper comparing the articles by 1. Study population 2. Intervention (Program) and 3. Results.

            *A more detailed Paper Guideline and grading criteria is posted in eCourseware.