HAR6016: Sociology of Health and Illness


Introduction

The sociology of health and illness involves studying how society is structured by looking at the patterns of relationships that have an existence over and above individuals. In this respect it looks at how health is distributed as a consequence of how people are related to each other in a number of ways. This involves looking at how for example social class and gender relations result in varying patterns and experiences of health.

The sociology of health and illness module goes well beyond this however. In this module you will also undertake a journey to study social organisation. What this means is that you will be looking at how the collective ideas of, for example health, can shape what we think is good and bad about health. We will be exploring how our very ideas about health can be controlled and manipulated, and how these ideas are historically located.

Beyond this sociology is also the study of what things mean to people. A large part of the sociology of health and illness involves understanding how people relate to each other both rationally and emotionally through what things mean for them. Not only this but we will explore how the meaning of health can shape encounters with various health professionals including doctors, health promoters, dentists and various different therapists.

Objectives

The aims of the module are to;

  • Develop a critical awareness of the sociology of health and illness including its relevance to health policy;
  • Introduce key themes of the sociology of health and illness;
  • Assemble key debates and discussions within the sociology of health and illness relevant to key components of public health;
  • Evaluate and assess core aspects of the sociology of health and illness relevant to public health;
  • Explore one application of the sociology of health and illness to public health in depth.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate the skills to be able to review and assess a range of issues in the sociology of health and illness that are relevant to a self directed and defined problem;
  • Show how an awareness of theoretical positions can enhance the exploration of a topic or problem in public health;
  • Engage critically and independently in debates related to the sociology of health and illness and how these can help us evaluate public health problems;
  • Produce a detailed work centred around a sociological exploration of a particular issue in public health.

Teaching Methods

This module consists of 10 sessions. Each session consists of a 1 ¾ hour discussion forums. The purposes of the forums are to introduce key concepts and theories, identify foundational assumptions and substantive ideas. We will also be seeking to illustrate the application of these assumptions and ideas to problems in public health.

The sessions will focus on developing students’ ability to:

  • employ sociological arguments;
  • interact through the medium of sociology;
  • assemble and organize sociological approaches to a problem;
  • encouraging the acceptance of different perspectives on a problem with the purpose of exposing hidden points of meaning;
  • challenging our own perspectives and taken for granted assumptions about a problem or area;
  • criticising both public health policy and sociological perspectives on health and illness justifying our own perspectives on the basis of sociological theory and evidence.

Assessment

Component Weighting
Reflective account formative
Essay (3000 words) summative (100%)

In order to facilitate learning we will promote writing and feedback through formative feedback and a summative assessment.

The formative assessment will involve a reflective account involving the application of sociology to an area of health (1000 words).

The summative assessment for the module will be through the presentation of one 3000 word assignment on a detailed aspect of the sociology of health and illness. You will be expected to select one question to address as part of your assignment (100% of the final grade).

The pass mark is 50%.