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Social Context of Health and Illness

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

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 six lectures, each covering a different topic. The topics for 2012 -13 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:

  • What do people suffer from: health/illness, the sick role, medicine's relationship to society
  • From individual to population: health inequalities, public health, changing demographics
  • The medicalised body: gender, the impact of new medical technologies, bioethics
  • The medical profession: medical pluralism, professional autonomy, trust
  • Expertise and Knowledge: scandals and scares, the expert patient
  • The limits to medicine: its scope and remit, how medicine will develop, the role of tomorrow's doctors

There will also be two sessions during the term that will bring together professional and patient perspectives in light of these debates and issues.

A revision lecture will be in Lent Term.

There are 4 compulsory seminar-style supervisions that each student must attend in set groups organised by the Faculty.


For details of the examination and information to help you to prepare for the exam, please click here.

Social Context of Health and Illness

The six lectures will be given by Dr Simon Cohn, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care. Detailed lecture outlines, topics for supervisions and suggested reading are available via CamTools (, course abbreviation 'Health and Illness'). Please ensure you have your Raven password to access this resource.

In addition, two sessions during the regular timetabled slots (week 4 and at the week 8) will cover related material through the participation of clinicians talking with patients. They will also be available to respond to questions raised by students.

All lectures will be at 12 o'clock in the Babbage Theatre.

The seminar-style supervisions will be led by a number of supervisors in small groups on Thursday afternoons.

For details of your supervision group please click here.

Please ensure you know which group you belong to and where and when your seminars will take place. Attendance of all four seminars for each student is compulsory.