Not available in 2020/21
HP405      Half Unit
Social Determinants of Health

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Justin Parkhurst COW.3.08


This course is available on the MSc in Global Health Policy, MSc in Health Policy, Planning and Financing, MSc in Health and International Development, MSc in International Health Policy and MSc in International Health Policy (Health Economics). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is a listed option on MSc's in the department of Health Policy and for the MSc in Health and International Development. The course will be capped at 30 and priority may be given to students in the Department of Health Policy or related MSc degrees as needed.

Course content

The course introduces the social determinants of health from a global perspective. Content will draw on low, middle, and high income country examples, (although a majority of material will come from middle and high income cases). The course begins by exploring the shift in focus from individual to population health, the link to social determinants, and methodological challenges. It then goes into specific social determinants and issues such as poverty, education, gender and the built environment. Specific health and intersectional issues are then introduced, before final lectures that consider the politics of policy responses dealing with social determinants. A set of 6 seminars compliment the lectures with the final seminar linked to assessment.


15 hours of lectures and 12 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

An outline or early draft of the term essay will be submitted in week 8 to allow feedback and guidance from teaching staff before final submission.


Indicative reading

Rose, Geoffrey. 2001. "Sick individuals and sick populations."  International journal of epidemiology 30 (3):427-432.

WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. 2008. Closing the gap in a generation: health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Final report of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health. Geneva: World Health Organization.

Birn, Anne-Emanuelle, Yogan Phillay, and Timothy H. Holtz. 2009. Textbook of international health: global health in a dynamic world. New York: Oxford University Press.


Sallis, James F, Neville Owen, and Edwin B Fisher. 2008. "Ecological models of health behavior." In Health behavior and health education: Theory, research, and practice, edited by Karen Glanz, Barbara K. Rimmer and K. Viswanath, 465-486. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.


Subramanian, S. V., Paolo Belli, and Ichiro Kawachi. "The macroeconomic determinants of health." Annual review of public health 23.1 (2002): 287-302.


Essay (75%, 3500 words) in the ST.
In-class assessment (25%) in the LT.

25% of the grade will be based on small group presentations in the final seminars.

75% of the grade will be based on a term essay (3500 words) that requires them to address a key health concern facing a population in a specific country of interest from a social and political perspective. They will need to write a policy brief that reviews literature, considers policy responses in relation to critical conceptual approaches covered, and proposes potential approaches to the problem.

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 6.6
Merit 57.1
Pass 35.2
Fail 1.1

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Health Policy

Total students 2019/20: 30

Average class size 2019/20: 10

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills