Health, Illness and Medicine - SO509

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn and Spring 6 30 (15) PROF E Lee checkmark-circle


‘Health’, ‘illness’ and ‘medicine’ are by no means static concepts. Their meaning has changed over time, and there is competition and conflict over what they mean. For example, in recent decades, health has come to mean much more the absence of disease. This is the age of healthy eating, sexual health, holistic health, healthy lifestyles and healthy living. We live in a time when medicine can mean homeopathy or acupuncture, as well as heart surgery and vaccinations. ‘Health’ is also something we seem to worry about, and panic over; recent years have witnessed high profile scares about eating beef, using the contraceptive pill and mobile phones, and giving babies the MMR vaccine. ‘Health, Illness and Medicine’ discusses key ideas and concepts developed by social scientists that can help us understand these, and other, aspects of our society.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

22 weekly lectures and seminars, one hour each

Method of assessment

50% coursework (three 2,000 word essays) and 50% 3-hour exam

Indicative reading

Wainwright, D (ed) (2008) A Sociology of Health (core text)
Nettleton, S (2013) The Sociology of Health and Illness (3rd ed.)
Gabe, J and Monaghan, L (2013) Key Concepts in Medical Sociology (2nd ed.)
Lupton, D (2000) The Imperative of Health: Public Health and the Regulated Body
Gabe, J and Calnan, M (eds)(2009) The New Sociology of the Health Service
Barry, A and Yuill, C (2011) Understanding the Sociology of Health (2nd ed)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this module will have:
Learned to describe and analyse the ways in which concepts of health, illness and medicine are constructed and contested
Gained knowledge of key sociology theories concerning health, illness and medicine
Developed an understating of the principal debates in sociology concerning health and illness
Gained familiarity with current debates about the development of medicine and the medical profession
Engaged with contemporary debates concerning health and illness, in particular ‘health panics’
Increased their capacity in regard to application of social science theory and research evidence to understandings of health, illness and medicine


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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