New policy course uses pandemic to examine U.S. system inequities and barriers

October 27, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Nearly every country has struggled to contain the coronavirus over the last several months. One country that has struggled in particular is the United States, which has accounted for 20% of the confirmed cases and 19% of the deaths globally while only accounting for 4% of the population, noted Simon Haeder, assistant professor of public policy at Penn State. How did this happen and is there a way to move forward? Analyzing our current policies and political systems provide insight into where we are, where we are going, and aid in future policy design and recommendation.

Header, in Penn State’s School of Public Policy, is using data and analysis from the current pandemic in a new course to demonstrate the significance policy plays in our emergency response, and to stress the systemic inequities and partisan politics that challenge our confrontation of a national health emergency. The course is titled PPOL 597, "Public Policy Analysis: Politics and the Pandemic — Why Are We Doing Worse Than Anyone Else?"

The course is based around studying existing and historical political, social, and systemic obstacles that worked against a proactive national response. The class will evaluate the U.S and global responses, various health organizations, the effectiveness of current and past policies, and look at alternative policies.

“Countries from Germany to South Korea have felt the blow to their societies and economies. Yet nowhere has the devastation been as extensive as in the U.S. where the global outbreak collided with a political system brimming with partisanship and polarization,” Haeder said. “Both pathologies are mirrored among the American public, which finds some forswearing science and subscribing to conspiracy theories. The coronavirus has also ripped open old wounds by highlighting systemic inequities and barriers.

“COVID-19 highlights how critical state and federal policy is in emergency response,” he continued. “Understanding the past and present policies, the motives, and agencies involved in creating and executing health care strategy and crisis management, helps our students learn to design and develop future policies.”

Graduate courses in public policy provide professional training for those seeking careers in the design, adoption, implementation, and advocacy of public policies. Learn more about graduate courses in the master of public policy program at Penn State on the School of Public Policy website.

  • Simon Haeder, assistant professor of public policy

    Simon Haeder, assistant professor of public policy

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 28, 2020