PS418      Half Unit
Health Communication

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington QUE.3.20


This course is available on the MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation, MSc in Gender, Policy and Inequalities, MSc in Health, Community and Development, MSc in Media, Communication and Development, MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Population and Development, MSc in Psychology of Economic Life, MSc in Social Research Methods, MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This courses centres on the application of social psychology to the challenge of health communication in a global context. While considering both health and communication in their widest sense, it focuses primarily on the practice of health promotion and its conceptual underpinnings. We will begin with an introduction to health psychology and expert-led approaches to health communication, before moving on to consider health and illness in their wider social and societal context. The final section of the course considers community development and social justice approaches that put empowerment and participation at their centre, enabling us to close with a critical yet hopeful appraisal of the future of health communication. Throughout, we will view the individual as a bio-psycho-social system, located within families, workplaces, communities, local and global cultures, unequal power hierarchies, and rapidly changing social settings. Through lectures, readings and seminar discussions, we will encounter theoretical debates about determinants of health and health-related behaviours, the nature of health communication, and the processes through which communication impacts on health. At the same time, we will consider the implications of these debates for health promotion campaigns and policies, learning about real-world examples through guest lectures, and gaining hands-on experience in designing and critiquing health communication campaigns through practical exercises.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the LT.

Indicative reading

Berry, D. (2007) Health Communication: theory and practice. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Crossley M. (2000) Rethinking health psychology. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Dixey, R. (Ed.) (2013). Health Promotion: Global Principles and Practice. Wallingford: CABI.

Hofrichter, R. (Ed.) (2003) Health and Social Justice: Politics, Ideology, and Inequality in the Distribution of Disease. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

Hook, D., Franks, B. and Bauer, M. (Eds) (2011). Social Psychology of Communication. Basingstoke: Palgrave. 

Littlejohn S. and Foss K. (2005). Theories of Communication. Eighth Edition. Belmont CA: Wadsworth.

Nettleton, S. (1995). The sociology of health and illness. Oxford: Blackwell.

Obregon, R., Waisbord, S. (2012). Handbook of global health communication. Wiley-Blackwell.

Petchesky, R. (2003). Global prescriptions: gendering health and human rights. Zed.

Peterson, A. and Lupton, D. (1996). The New Public Health - Health and Self in the Age of Risk, Sage.

Radley, A. (2009). Works of illness. Narrative, picturing and the social response to serious disease. InkerMen Press.

Seale, C. The Media and Health. Sage, 2002.

Servais, J. (Ed) (2008). Communication for development and social change. Los Angeles: Sage.

Turshen, M. (2007). Women’s health movements: a global force for change. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Tones K. and Green J. (2006). Health promotion: planning and strategies. London: Sage.



Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 24.4
Merit 63.3
Pass 12.2
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2015/16: 24

Average class size 2015/16: 12

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Lecture capture used 2015/16: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills