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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 eight 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:

  • 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

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

A revision lecture will given be in Lent Term.

There are 4 compulsory seminar-style supervisions in Michaelmas 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 Course Organiser is Dr Shirlene Badger in the Institute of Public Health. 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.

All lectures will start at 12:15 in the Lady Mitchell Hall.

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.


The Ethics component of the course is run by The Revd Jeremy Caddick.   There will be two compulsory seminar-style supervisions run in Lent Term in the same groups as Michaelmas Term but in some cases with different supervisors.  The second of these supervisions will incorporate general revision on planning an essay.

For details of your Lent supervision group please 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