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Social Context of Health and Illness


The Course Organiser for SCHI is Dr Robbie Duschinsky in the Primary Care Unit. The Ethics component of the course is run by The Revd Jeremy Caddick. Detailed lecture outlines, topics for supervisions and suggested reading are available on the SCHI Moodle site. Please ensure you have your Raven password to access this resource.

Aims of the Course

The course is an introduction to the perspective of medical practice, working with patients and colleagues, both in hospital and in the community. All the lectures relate to the practice of medicine in Britain. The topics are driven by developing an awareness of what patients really bring to the medical encounter - their expectations and thoughts about their health, and possibilities of health care to help them. These expectations are influenced by broader issues relating to gender, age, ethnic and cultural background, and what they can and cannot afford to do to help their health. The course aims to address objectives outlined in Tomorrow's Doctors.

Structure of the Course

The course consists of fourteen lecture sessions. The topics covered relate to how different people think about health, how they choose their pathways to care, and the extent to which they co-operate with treatment. Lectures include:


  • Introduction
  • Social relationships
  • Inequalities
  • Preparing for patients
  • Chronic illness
  • Self-care
  • How do we do ethics?
  • The legal basis of medicine


  • Ethical issues at the beginning of life
  • Ethical issues at the end of life
  • The changing medical profession
  • Cultures and norms
  • Caring for populations: research and resource allocation
  • Revision

Four of the lecture sessions will bring together professional and patient perspectives in light of these debates and issues.

The examination will last 90 minutes and will examine material covered by the course. Candidates will be required to answer two out of 6-8 questions that will span the lecture topics and issues raised during the seminars. Each question will carry equal marks.

The Social Context of Health and Illness is a 2nd MB examination, which students must pass before they proceed to The Clinical School.


Please ensure you know which group you belong to and where and when your supervisions will take place. All supervisions are compulsory and each student must attend their set group organised by the Faculty.

There are four Social Context of Health and Illness seminar-style supervisions in Michaelmas Term.

There will be two Ethics seminar-style supervisions run in Lent Term. The second of these supervisions will incorporate general revision on planning an essay.

For details of your supervision group, click here.

Reading List

Some suggested reading that will help you prepare for and increase your knowledge of SCHI:

  • Sarah Nettleton (2013) The Sociology of Health and Illness, 3rd edition, Cambridge: Polity Press
  • William Cockerham (2012) Social Causes of Health and Disease, 2nd edition, Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Anne Rogers and David Pilgrim (2014) Sociology of Mental Health and Illness, 5th edition, Maidenhead: Open University Press