Module Catalogue 2023/24

SOC2056 : Sociology of Health and Illness

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Pauline McCormack
  • Lecturer: Dr Mwenza Blell
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



The module deals with understanding health, illness and health care from a social science perspective. The first half of the lecture series provides an overview of the sub-discipline of the sociology of health and illness (SHI) and provides a robust theoretical-conceptual social science framework within which health issues can be analysed as social phenomena. The second half of the lecture series applies this framework of social science thought to particular issues in SHI such as inequalities in health, the body, mental health, and death and dying.

The key aims of this module are:

To examine the social aspects of health and illness from a social science perspective, with reference to the discipline of sociology.
To identify key themes which need to be considered in the social science analysis of health issues
To develop students’ understanding of major social science concepts in general

Outline Of Syllabus

Everyone has some experiences of being well, being ill and accessing health care. In this module, the emphasis is on learning to see health, illness and health care from a different perspective – from the perspective of a social scientist. We begin this process by exploring what a social science understanding of health and medicine looks like, then from that starting point consider the topics of western biomedicine, the professionalization of medicine, doctor-patient relationships and the experience of illness. Exploring these topics helps to set out a social scientific theoretical framework on health and illness. This framework is then used to formulate a social scientific understanding of key issues in health. Case study topics may not be the same each year, but are generally selected from the following list: inequalities, gender and health, ethnicity and health, mental health, disordered eating, death and dying.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

At the end of the module students should be able to:
Understand social science theory as it relates to the analysis of health related issues
Demonstrate knowledge of the major debates in the social science analysis of health issues
Understand the relationships between science, medicine and social organisation, from historical, sociological and anthropological perspectives.

Intended Skill Outcomes

At the end of the module students should be able to:

Apply a theoretical framework that encourages critical thinking on health issues
Apply social science theory and methodology to the analysis of health related issues
Demonstrate capacity to conduct critical and analytic writing
Demonstrate capacity to give and receive critical but constructive feedback
Demonstrate capacity to work as part of a team / collaborative seminar work

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture102:0020:00Synchronous, timetabled PiP
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials22:004:00Non-Synchronous, pre-recorded lectures
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities20:301:00Non-Synchronous online supported learning material
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00Synchronous, timetabled seminars PiP
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1137:00137:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures will be used to introduce students to the key debates in the Sociology of Health and Illness, and more general social science theories and methodologies that form the bedrock of those debates. The lectures therefore provide the basis of the ‘knowledge’ outcomes. The seminars will be used to consolidate knowledge and develop deeper understandings, using preparatory literature review work, in conjunction with group discussion. The academic skills activities allow students to use a wider range of source to explore sociological ideas and their context. The private study hours are extensive on this module to allow students to develop their understanding further, within the structure provided by the course materials and structured reading lists.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M502000 words
Report2M50Analytic Report (2000 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay2MEssay Plan - 500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The Assessed Essay gives students the opportunity to develop their written and analytic skills alongside their empirical and theoretical knowledge of the subject. Submitted part way through the module, this gives students feedback prior to submission of the Analytic Report.
The Analytic Report is submitted toward the end of the module. The Analytic Report provides an opportunity to assess students' capability to apply their general empirical and theoretical knowledge of social science perspectives on health to a specialist case study topic. This piece of assessment tests students' written and analytic skills in a more applied format. It develops and tests their abilities to organise relevant scholarly information within an assessment structure that (a) provides an opportunity for students to take more control over their assignment; (b) allows examination of a particular topic in depth; and (c) provides an opportunity for students to develop and be evaluated on writing up scholarly work in a more applied format.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2023/24 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2024/25 entry will be published here in early-April 2024. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.