Health, Illness and Medicine - SOCI5090

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


'Health', ‘illness’ and ‘medicine’ are not static concepts. Their meaning changes 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. The term ‘epidemic’ is no longer used only in relation to contagious disease; we have epidemics of teenage pregnancy, obesity and ‘mental health’. 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, including about some things like vaccinations and contraceptive pills that are also part of ‘public health’. Of course, our experience has been reshaped profoundly by global experience of, and responses to, pandemic.. This module draws on sociological ideas that can help us understand, and critically evaluate, what we mean by health, illness and medicine and what the meaning we give to these terms tells us about the society we live in.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 44
Private study hours: 256
Total study hours: 300


Optional module to the following programmes:
BA Health and Social Care
BA Sociology and associated programmes
BA Social Policy and associated programmes

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Essay 1 (2500 words) (35%)
Essay 2 (2500 words) (35%)
Examination, 2 hour (30%)

Reassessment methods

100% coursework

Indicative reading

• Barry, A (2016) Understanding the Sociology of Health (4th ed), Los Angeles, Sage
• Gabe, J and Calnan, M (eds) (2009) The New Sociology of the Health Service, Abingdon, New York, Routledge
• Gabe, J and Monaghan, L (2013) Key Concepts in Medical Sociology (2nd ed.), Los Angeles, Sage
• Lupton, D (2000) The Imperative of Health: Public Health and the Regulated Body, London, Sage
• Nettleton, S (2013) The Sociology of Health and Illness, Cambridge, Polity, (3rd ed.)
• Wainwright, D (ed) (2008) A Sociology of Health London, Sage (core text)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

8.1 Describe and critically analyse the ways in which concepts of health, illness and medicine are constructed and contested;
8.2 Demonstrate detailed knowledge of key sociology theories concerning health, illness and medicine;
8.3 Engage with contemporary debates concerning health and illness, about 'health panics', the politics of behaviour modification, and new
forms of illness;
8.4 Demonstrate a high capacity in the application of social science theory and research evidence to understandings of health, illness and

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

9.1 organise information in a clear and coherent manner;
9.2 demonstrate critical thinking, analysis and synthesis.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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