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Health & Social Behaviour - HEA00063M

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  • Department: Health Sciences
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Tim Doran
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
C Summer Term 2022-23

Module aims

The module explores how people interpret and respond to health and illness within the context of their social relationships. The module also provides an understanding of the development and delivery of health policy and healthcare practice. The theoretical content of the module will develop academic skills, and the emphasis on self-directed learning, reflection and critical thinking will develop graduate skills. The specific aims of the module are to:

• introduce key conceptual psychological and sociological approaches in explaining how individuals and societies understand, interpret and respond to health, illness and disability;

• ensure students understand the social patterning of health and illness;

• enable students to describe socio-demographic inequalities in health and health services and to use psychological and sociological approaches to understand health inequalities and health policy interventions;

• encourage reflection and critical thinking when thinking about health and healthcare.


To achieve these aims, the module will draw on a range of psychological and sociological perspectives and apply them in a range of national and international contexts. The module begins by introducing students to the main theoretical concepts used to understand health, illness and disability. These will be used to explore the relationship between individual agency and structural context in mediating health processes and outcomes. In subsequent sessions a series of key examples are used to explore:

  • how people make sense of health and illness;
  • the social patterning of health and illness and resulting inequalities;
  • the development of health policy;
  • the impact of chronic conditions on the lives of individuals and wider social groups;
  • the organisation and delivery of health care;
  • the value of health promotion strategies;
  • the boundaries of medical knowledge and its influence on health care delivery;
  • the historical context, which mediates how we understand health, illness and health care.

Module learning outcomes

After completing the module students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. Confidence in understanding and applying core psychological and sociological concepts to the experience of health and illness and to healthcare policy and practice.
  2. An understanding of the social patterning of health and illness and the resulting health inequalities.
  3. A critical understanding of the development of public policy and the role of evidence in forming and implementing policy.
  4. The ability to synthesise complex debates in a concise way when presenting structured assignments.

Module content

The module begins with eight introductory sessions on the key concepts associated with health psychology, the sociology of health and illness, and health equity. These sessions will include discussions about the role of theory and the implications of applying theoretical perspectives to help us better understand the experience of health and illness as well as policy and practice. In the remaining sessions we introduce specific empirical case studies, such as: alcohol and drug use; behavioural interventions in mental illness; end of life care; the use of incentives in health care; behavioural approaches to chronic and long standing conditions; explaining the nature and patterning of health inequalities; and developing interventions aimed at reducing inequalities.

Teaching normally takes place within two weekly 3-hour sessions. Sessions will be a mix of formal lectures, workshops and seminars with student participation, directed reading and small group work.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay - 1500 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay - 1500 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Written feedback for summative assessment is provided on the standard proforma, within the timescale specified in the programme handbook.

Indicative reading

The scope of the module requires several key texts:

  • Ogden, J. (2012). Health Psychology: a Text Book. 5th edn. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
  • Wilkinson, N. and Klaes, M (2012) An Introduction to Behavioural Economics, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Nettleton, S. (2013). The Sociology of Health and Illness. 3rd edn. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Wistow, J., Blackman, T., Byrne, D., Wistow, G., (2015) Studying Health Inequalities: An Applied Approach. Bristol: Policy Press.
  • Buse, K. and Mays, N. (2012) Making Health Policy. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

There will be list of additional recommended reading, which the students will be encouraged to read, along with reading lists associated with each case study.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.