Defining Social Problems


In this course, Design and Evaluation of Programs and Projects, you examine aspects of program planning and evaluation while also engaging in a Practicum Experience. As you do this, you may notice the differing terminologies and approaches that are applied in various circumstances. For instance, you are likely quite familiar with the phrase health problem” from your previous coursework and professional practice. This Discussion looks at understanding social problems” as part of a framework for program design. What is the distinction between these terms? Why is it important to notice this divergence?

Problem analysis is a cornerstone for effective program planning and should be conducted at the outset. With this first Discussion, begin to pay close attention to the language and perspectives that will inform your program planning work as you move forward in the course.

To prepare:

• Consider the following scenario:

o Data from the Appalachian region show lower numbers of women receiving mammograms compared to the national average, indicating a need to increase use of this procedure in this area. However, the data also show that women from this region are reluctant to participate because of their attitudes toward mammograms (Royse & Dignan, 2009).
Review Chapter 1 of Designing and Managing Programs to be sure you have a clear understanding of the sequencing of program design and evaluation, as well as the importance of each element of this process.
Then, review Chapter 3. Analyze the scenario above in light of the concepts presented:

o Why is it important to avoid stating the problem as a solution?

o How does this scenario illustrate a social problem”?

o What responses to the problem analysis framework questions (pp. 4549) could you develop given the information provided?

By Day 3, post a cohesive scholarly response that addresses the following:

• Describe three key insights or strategies you would share with your team if you were engaged in planning for a program related to the scenario described above.

• How do you expect that your intended approach to developing an understanding of social problems could affect program planning? Be sure to support your response.

Learning Resources
Required Resources
You may view this course video by clicking the link below or on the course DVD, which contains the same content. As a reminder, additional Learning Resources for the week are listed below the link. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the web page to view the complete list of Required and Optional Resources.
If you experience technical difficulties viewing the course video through the link, please contact your Student Support Team at 1-800-WALDENU or
To view this weeks media resources, please click on the link below. Once youve opened the link, click on Introduction to Program Planning” then click the light purple box.

• Course Video: Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2011). Design and evaluation of programs and projects. Baltimore, MD: Author.

o Introduction to Program Planning” (featuring Dr. Rebecca Lee, Franko Wantsala, and Alexis Kidd)

This weeks videos, featuring Dr. Rebecca Lee, Franko Wantsala, and Alexis Kidd, share a program example at Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses in Cincinnati.
• Course Text: Kettner, P. M., Moroney, R. M., & Martin, L. L. (2008). Designing and managing programs: An effectiveness-based approach (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

o Chapter 1, Contemporary Issues in Social Services Program Planning and Administration”

The first chapter of this text describes current issues related to designing and managing programs. By asking the reader to briefly analyze an existing program, the authors lay out the topics that will be addressed in the book-and throughout this course.
o Chapter 3, Understanding Social Problems”

Chapter 3 emphasizes critical considerations for developing an understanding of a social problem that may differ from how this has been approached by service providers in the past-including the importance of beginning with problem analysis early in the planning process and focusing on understanding the problem rather than generating solutions.
1) Epidemiology and Population Health
Reflect on your nursing practice for a moment. If you could wipe out one illness, what would it be? How would that impact not just an individual patient, but your entire patient population? What would be the long-term benefits of eliminating that one illness?
The eradication of smallpox by 1979 provides an excellent example of this scenario. This eradication came about as a result of global collaborative efforts involving many countries and organizations, as well as the application of epidemiologic methods. In spite of high initial financial costs, it is estimated that millions of dollars continue to be saved around the world each year as a result of the eradication of this disease.
The eradication of smallpox illustrates the rich history of epidemiology and demonstrates the cost/benefits and implications of improving health at the population level. The application of epidemiologic methods and principles to other critical population health issues continues to play an essential role in improving health and health outcomes.
For this Discussion, you will identify a current population health problem, and you will examine how, and if, the problem is being addressed through the application of epidemiologic principles. You will also discuss the cost-effectiveness of dealing with the problem at the population level.
To prepare:
• Review the Learning Resources, focusing on the smallpox epidemic of the 1960s and 1970s and how health organizations applied principles of epidemiology to eradicate this disease.
• In light of this example, consider the cost effectiveness of addressing smallpox at the population level.
• Using the Learning Resources, research a current population health problem (local or global). Select one on which to focus for this Discussion.
• Think about how principles of epidemiology are being applied—or could be applied—to address the problem.
• What lessons from the use of epidemiology in the eradication of smallpox might be applicable to this selected problem? What are the financial benefits of addressing this issue at the population level as opposed to the individual level?
By Day 3, post a cohesive response that addresses the following:
• Briefly summarize your selected population health problem and describe how principles of epidemiology are being applied—or could be applied—to address the problem.
• Are there any lessons learned from the use of epidemiology in the eradication of smallpox that can be applied to your selected problem?
• Evaluate the cost effectiveness of addressing this health problem at the population level versus the individual level.

• Friis, R. H., & Sellers, T. A. (2014). Epidemiology for public health practice (5th ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.
o Chapter 1, History and Scope of Epidemiology”
o Chapter 2, Practical Applications of Epidemiology” (pages 4980 only)

Epidemiology is defined and introduced in Chapter 1. This chapter also presents an interesting historical overview that explains the emergence of the field. The assigned section of Chapter 2 addresses several uses of epidemiology.
Nash, D. B., Fabius, R. J., Skoufalos, A., Clarke, J. L. & Horowitz, M. R. (2016). Population health: Creating a culture of wellness (2nd ed). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
o Building Cultures of Health and Wellness (xxvii)

In the Population Health Mandate” section of the course text, the authors provide an introduction to population health, noting that it has three core components: health outcomes, health determinants, and policies.
o Chapter 2, The Spectrum of Care”

In Chapter 2, the authors examine the purposes of the population health approach. Two key themes are introduced in this chapter: 1) population health as it relates to the challenges of quality and cost in health care, and 2) population health as an approach to not only reducing the burden of chronic illness but also to promoting wellness and increasing prevention.
o Chapter 8, Behavioral Economics”

In Chapter 8, the authors examine effect of social and cognitive function on an individuals economic decisions. Reinforced by legislation, behavioral economics can be applied in population health to influence and change health outcomes. . Compelling examples of incremental improvements (e.g., corporate wellness programs) are provided throughout the chapter.
Larkin, H. (2010). Managing population health. Hospitals & Health Networks, 84(10), 2832.
Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

This article uses examples from a diabetes pilot program to demonstrate the value of population health management. The author discusses how the application of individual patient interventions can positively affect the entire target population, as well as improve the cost effectiveness of management programs.
Center for Global Development. (n.d.). Case 1: Eradicating smallpox. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from

This reading presents the eradication of smallpox in the form of a case study. Many lessons can be learned from the successful global effort to eliminate smallpox.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Morbidity and mortality weekly report. Retrieved from

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) is a weekly epidemiological report distributed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide, according to the MMWRwebsite, timely, reliable, authoritative, accurate, objective, and useful public health information and recommendations.” It is one of the most important sources of timely public health data published anywhere.
World Health Organization. (2001). Smallpox. Retrieved from

The World Health Organization provides a succinct overview of the eradication of small pox and its impact on population health.
Note: Explore population health issues presented at the websites below as you prepare for this weeks Discussion and Assignment:
• American Public Health Association. (2011). Retrieved from
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Retrieved from
• Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. (2011). Retrieved from
• U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2011). Retrieved from
• Healthy People 2020. (2011). Global health. Retrieved from
• U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2011). Public health focus. Retrieved from