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Module NHS-2201:
Sociology of Health

Module Facts

Run by School of Health Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Julianne Law

Overall aims and purpose

During the first part of the module students will be provided with a broad overview of the main sociological theories/perspectives on Health and Illness. Once the students have this knowledge they are prepared to progress to a study of specific topics within the field of the Sociology of Health, during the second half of the semester.

Course content

This module will introduce students to the main sociological perspectives on health and medicine, and will explore current debates concerning the nature and role of biomedicine. Lay experiences and health beliefs will be studied, and lay/professional interactions explored. The role of the professions, and changing power relationships within the health services will be put under scrutiny. The medicalization of birth, death and society will be considered. Students will evaluate the changing profile of health and illness in contemporary society, and consider the experience of chronic illness and disability. The social patterning of health according to class, gender and ethnicity will be analyzed, and competing explanations considered. Geographic inequalities in health status will be explored as well as social differences relating to age and the life course.

Assessment Criteria


B+ to B- Be able to provide a clear account of the key theoretical approaches to the sociology of health and medicine, appreciate the social patterning of health and illness in contemporary society, and compare and contrast differing explanatory frameworks; explain how medical knowledge is socially constructed, and how lay perspectives differ from professional perspectives on health and illness; evaluate the relationship between health and society, and the changing experiences and meanings of health and illness; produce an essay, well argued and with supporting information, which is adequately referenced.


A* to A- Be able to evaluate the key theoretical approaches in the sociology of health, and to provide a comprehensive account of the social patterning of health and illness in contemporary society; to assess and evaluate competing explanations for variations in health according to social position, and offer a well argued point of view; to compare and contrast lay and professional perspectives, and to analyse the relationship between health and societal change; to show a full appreciation of the meaning of illness in contemporary society; to produce an essay which is cogently argued, fully supported by research findings, and fully referenced.


C+ to C- Be able to show a knowledge of key theoretical approaches to the sociology of health and medicine, and demonstrate an awareness of the social nature of health and illness; describe the social patterning of health and illness in contemporary society and provide explanations of these; describe how ideas about health and illness are constructed differently by lay people and by professionals in the field of medicine; show an awareness of the development of medical knowledge, and the changing experiences of health and illness in modern society; present an essay which is supported by basic referencing.

Learning outcomes

  1. Show an understanding of how health and illness are socially constructed.

  2. Demonstrate a knowledge of key theoretical perspectives employed in the sociology of health and illness.

  3. Show an appreciation of the significance of lay understandings of health, and understanding of how lay and medical interpretations diverge.

  4. Demonstrate a knowledge of the social patterning of health and illness, and understanding of the competing explanations for these health variations.

  5. Show an awareness of the dimensions of professional power in the field of health and medicine and an understanding of the limits of medical dominance.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM Essay questions

The essay questions will be pre-released, two weeks before the date of the exam, so that students can prepare their answers. The students will select two questions to answer, and will have two hours to complete the assignment.


The students will write a 2,000 word essay. They will have a choice of 4-5 questions to answer, and will select one.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


3 hours per week, over 12 weeks (lectures & seminar group) Students should have access to a range of resources, including texts, monographs and journals, both text and electronic; and computing resources including hardware, software and learning environments such as Blackboard.

Private study

Students will be exposed to a variety of teaching and learning formats, including lectures, seminars and workshops, independent study and flexible learning via Blackboard.


Tutorials/Group Discussions: These will facilitate the learning of underlying concepts, either as group or individually, either face-to-face, via email, Skype, or through other accessible formats (for example, telephone).


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Caring - Showing concern for others; caring for children, people with disabilities and/or the elderly
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

Evaluate the impact of difference and diversity on the incidence and experience of illness; Compare and contrast cultural variations in medicine; Analyse health and health issues, alongside health information and data that may be drawn from a wide range of disciplines; Draw upon, and consider, lived experiences of health, well-being and illness from diverse sources and perspectives.


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Reading list

Courses including this module