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Study information

Cultures and Environments of Health

Module titleCultures and Environments of Health
Module codeHUMM018
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Felicity Thomas (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will introduce you to core material and debates within the social sciences, medical humanities and public health. It will explore how diverse approaches and perspectives can enhance our understandings of what it means to be healthy; how health can be sustained; and how health is threatened and fostered. Learning will be centred on understanding: transitions across the life-course; unequal health outcomes; and health across time and space.

This module is suitable for individuals wishing to gain interdisciplinary understanding of the ways that health and wellbeing are conceptualised, researched, and responded to within policy and practice; and for those working in or intending to work in applied health and community care settings. There are no pre-requisite modules. However, students should have some knowledge in the social sciences, humanities and/or medical sciences prior to undertaking this module.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The main aim of this module is to provide you with interdisciplinary knowledge and critical understanding of the ways that diverse cultures and environments shape health and wellbeing experiences and outcomes. Particular focus will be placed on understanding: how health and wellbeing are affected by the relations and environments we experience throughout our lives; the critical and transitional periods that influence health and wellbeing experiences and outcomes; and how complex health challenges are conditioned, framed and experienced across space and time. As well as understanding why health and wellbeing are unequally distributed at local and global levels, you will also focus on examples which demonstrate how healthy publics can be effectively fostered.

The module aims to provide you with the skills and experiences needed to work across disciplines, sectors and settings — factors identified as increasingly desirable by both employers and research funders. The skills you gain from discussion and critique of cutting-edge research, coupled with independent review of the scientific literature, will stand you in good stead for doctoral training in social sciences/medical humanities applied to health; or for health-focused careers in statutory, commercial, third sector organisations and (inter)national NGOs.

Transferable skills to other sectors include: problem solving; time management; working as part of a group; reviewing and synthesising literature; recognising and making sense of diverse and potentially conflicting forms of evidence; writing skills; communicating complex data in an accessible manner.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Recognise and describe in detail the ways that diverse cultures and environments impact on health and wellbeing experiences and outcomes.
  • 2. Demonstrate, in writing and/ or orally, the ways that different disciplinary perspectives influence understandings of health and ways of responding to complex health challenges.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Demonstrate an ability to focus on and comprehend complex issues relating to the diverse ways that health and wellbeing are conceptualised, researched and responded to.
  • 4. Demonstrate an ability to follow the changes in conceptualisations and practices of health across time and space.
  • 5. Think critically, analyse, challenge, and identify convergences across diverse disciplinary understandings of health and wellbeing.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Present complex arguments effectively in writing and orally to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  • 7. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument developed through the mode of assessment.

Syllabus plan

This module will examine why and how human health and wellbeing are impacted by different cultural and environmental contexts. The module’s precise content may vary from year to year, but topics are likely to be drawn from the following:

  • Physiological, environmental and cultural influences on health and wellbeing
  • Situating the body across diverse contexts
  • Life-course transitions
  • Intergenerational injustice
  • Unequal distribution of mental and physical health
  • Race, gender and clinical inequities
  • Toxic and healing spaces
  • Using history to situate present-day health challenges and inequalities
  • Personal and political temporalities around chronicity, trauma and healing

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching time2211 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study11011 x 10 hours of course readings
Guided independent study34Preparation of presentation
Guided independent study134Reading/research for and writing of essay

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Draft plan of essay1000 words1-7Oral feedback
Draft plan of presentation500 words1-7Oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay806000 words1-7Written feedback
Presentation2015 minutes1-7Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-7Referral/deferral period
PresentationPresentation1-7Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Affun-Adegbulu C, Adegbulu O. “Decolonising Global (Public) Health: from Western universalism to Global pluriversalities.” BMJ Global Health 2020;5:e002947.
  • Clarke, B., Ghiara, V., & Russo, F. (2019). Time to care: why the humanities and the social sciences belong in the science of health. BMJ open, 9(8), e030286.
  • Hinchliffe, S, Jackson, M., Wyatt, K. et al. (2018) Healthy publics: enabling cultures and environments for health. Palgrave Communications 4(1): 1-10.
  • Napier, D., Depledge, M. H., Knipper, M., Lovell, R., Ponarin, E., Sanabria, E., & Thomas, F. (2017). Culture Matters: Using a Cultural Contexts of Health Approach to Enhance Policy-making. World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe.
  • Salisbury, L., & Baraitser, L. (2020). Depressing time: waiting, melancholia, and the psychoanalytic practice of care. In The Time of Anthropology. Taylor & Francis.
  • Shuey, K,M. and A.E. Wilson (2021) The life course perspective, in Cockerham, W. (Ed.) The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Medical Sociology Wiley.

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Key words search

health; wellbeing; culture; environment; interdisciplinary; policy; inequality

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date