Accessibility statement

The politics of health emergencies: Security, vulnerability & neglect - POL00102M

« Back to module search

  • Department: Politics
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Joao Nunes
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

This module explores the political dimensions of global health, taking the standpoint of health emergencies. It investigates the securitized context of global health, contrasting it with the persistence of everyday vulnerabilities and zones of neglect.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

COVID-19 has demonstrated that pandemic disease is one of the most pressing challenges in world politics. But health problems go beyond the infectious diseases that reach the headlines. Ill health is a major burden affecting the daily lives of countless individuals and the stability of societies around the world. Diseases are closely interlinked with poverty, underdevelopment, social and political tensions – whilst acting as multipliers of other vulnerabilities and forms of harm.
This module studies the political dimensions of health and disease. It starts from, but seeks to question, the notion of health emergencies that has become prevalent in political discourse. Adopting a historical perspective, it explores the mechanisms of governance that have been set up at the international level to address health problems. It identifies in global health a tendency for health issues to be seen through a security lens, and evaluates the consequences of this. The module further explores how global health has been traversed by everyday vulnerabilities and inequalities related to geography, race, gender, class and age. Finally, it considers the reproduction of neglected areas in global health, pertaining to diseases, determinants and groups that are systematically exposed to harm and/or unable to access good and affordable healthcare.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:
• - Recognise the political dimensions of health and disease, at both the domestic and international level;
• - Understand the politics of health emergencies against the background of existing mechanisms of global health governance;
• - Understand the linkages between security and health;
• - Understand how health vulnerabilities and neglect are reproduced.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

Biehl, João. Vita: Life in a zone of social abandonment. University of California Press, 2013.

Elbe, Stefan. Security and global health. Polity, 2010.

Farmer, Paul. Pathologies of power: Health, human rights, and the new war on the poor. University of California Press, 2005

Nunes, João. Security, Emancipation and the Politics of Health: A New Theoretical Perspective. Routledge, 2013

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.