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The University of Southampton

HMPR1002 On the Social Science of Healthcare

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To introduce you to the world of social science research and the ways that social scientists investigate and analyse the relationship between people, society and culture in the context of healthcare. Over the course of the next three years you will tackle a range of topics from the perspective of different social science disciplines including; Psychology, Sociology, Politics, Law, Demography and Economics. Each of these disciplines offers a unique approach to understanding aspects of the social world. They differ in their focus of enquiry, the questions that they ask, the ways in which they seek to understand truth and consequently the research methods that they use. Yet at the same time they interlink and overlap, blurring at their boundaries with one another. During this unit we will explore these social science disciplines and the relationships between them by considering how they have attempted to understand questions surrounding health, illness and the delivery of healthcare.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an awareness of what constitutes the social sciences, their scope and procedures
  • Demonstrate an ability to assimilate a basic social science vocabulary
  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of the social science issues around which the unit is based
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how social science approaches can co-contribute to an understanding of selected contemporary issues in healthcare including the ethical issues inherent in these contexts.
  • You should also have acquired basic skills in using libraries and in accessing different sources of information and should be able to display basic skills of communication.


An important theme, which runs throughout this module, draws attention to the importance in the social sciences of how we define problems to be investigated and how we produce ‘knowledge’ about them through the interactions of theories, methods and research. Whilst we have common sense assumptions about many aspects of health, illness and the delivery of healthcare, the complexity of understanding these concepts is only revealed and explored through social scientific understanding. This kind of understanding frequently challenges ‘common sense’ thinking, knowledge and assumptions. Over the course of the module we will discuss some of the research evidence that provides the support for social science understanding in relation to healthcare issues. The module will begin with a consideration of social science and its place in relation to “normal” science. We will move on to consider the complexity of studying social systems focusing on issues such as multiple causation and levels of analysis. From this starting point we will go onto consider how to think like a social scientist engaging in practical activities that will help you develop your skills in thinking critically. We will then move on to introduce you to different social science perspectives and draw on examples of where they have contributed to our understanding of healthcare system design and delivery. Each week a disciplinary expert from fields such as psychology, sociology, economics, law, anthropology and health policy will come to talk to you about their discipline and how that perspective can help us to understand the complexities surrounding health, illness and healthcare. Towards the end of the module we will then start to think about how these disciplines interrelate in terms of their contribution to understand specific issues in contemporary healthcare delivery.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

This module will involve a combination of lectures, seminars and workshops. Lectures will introduce you to the social sciences in general and to the individual disciplines more specifically. This module will draw together senior researchers from different parts of the University including the School of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Business and Law, as well as staff within Health Sciences. Seminars will be used to help you develop your skill in thinking like a social scientist through the use of discussions around key readings and participation in practical activities. The workshops will be used to get you to think about specific problems in healthcare and the ways in which the different social science traditions might contribute to their resolution. Formative feedback from the tutor and peers will be a key component of the learning environment to ensure that you can move forward in your learning.

Resources & Reading list

Guarding the gates of St Peter: life, death and law making. ,31 , pp. 644-666.

Steuer, M. (2004). The scientific study of society. 

Pescosolido, B.A.; Martin, J.K.; McLeod, J.D.; Rogers, A. (Eds.). (2011). Handbook of the Sociology of Health, Illness, and Healing A Blueprint for the 21st Century.Handbook of the Sociology of Health, Illness, and Healing A Blueprint for the 21st Century. Series: Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research. 

Pool, R. and Geissler, W. (2006). Medical Anthropology (Understanding Public Health). 

Morrison, Val and Bennett, Paul (2012). Introduction to Health Psychology. 

Pettigrew, T.F. (1996). How to think like a social scientist. 

Hinchliffe, S. and Woodward, K (2004). The Social & the Natural: Uncertainty, Risk, Change. 

Governability Framework for the Evaluation and Implementation of Complex Public Health Functions. ,36 , pp. 303-319.


Assessment Strategy

Formative Assessment Formative assessment activities and subsequent feedback will be a key component of lectures, seminars and workshops. This might involve presenting your ideas verbally or in written form, either as an individual or in a group. This formative assessment is not compulsory but is designed to ensure that you can move forward in your learning and so support the successful completion of your summative assessments. Summative Assessments These assessments are compulsory and linked to whether you pass this module and to your progression on the degree programme.


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment 85%
Assignment 15%


MethodPercentage contribution

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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