PB422      Half Unit
Health Communication

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Martin Bauer


This course is available on the MSc in Behavioural Science, MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation, MSc in Gender, Policy and Inequalities, MSc in Global Population Health, MSc in Health and International Development, MSc in Media, Communication and Development, MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Psychology of Economic Life, 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 course centres on the application of societal psychology to the challenges of health communication in a global context. Considering both health and communication in a wide sense, we will focus on public debates and controversies involving ‘health issues’ in modern society, and the overlap between the fields of health communication and science communication.

‘Health’ is a boundary object with many stakeholders: a major news value for science communication (health news); a criterion of societal development (increasing life expectancy); the grievance of social mobilisation  (patient groups; AIDS campaign); a matter of risk communication in emergencies (epidemics, pandemics, nuclear accidents); to evaluate new technologies on health risks (GM food, AI); an industrial sector (health business) and the NHS (public health systems); an investment proposition (the health sector); health is a life style (wellness); a consumer issue as in food and service quality; the discussion of ‘unhealthy behaviour’ carries religious connotations (of ‘sinning’) in secular society; and health creates voices that enjoy high levels of trust and confidence as communicators in modern society (doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, pharmacists).

Throughout, we will discuss  empirical studies of controversies in rapidly changing settings (Thalidomide, smoking & cancer, vaccinations, GM food, pandemics, quackery, pseudo-science, alternative medicine etc). Through lectures, readings and seminar discussions with guests, we will encounter debates about health-related communication and behaviours, 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, learning about real-world examples through guest lectures, and gaining hands-on experience in appreciating, designing and critically assessing health communication in the 21st century.


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

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 outline essay (1000 words)  coursework in the LT and make 1 seminar presentation to receive feedback.

Indicative reading

Bauer MW (2015) Atom, Bytes and Genes – techno-scientific responses to public resistance, NY, Routledge.

Bauer MW, P Pansegrau, and R Shukla (2019) (eds.) The Cultural Authority of Science – Comparing across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas [Routledge Studies of Science, Technology & Society, Vol 40], London, Routledge;

Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The Social Construction of Reality. New York, NY: Doubleday. [Social institutions, objectification, and socialisation.]

Bucchi, M., & Trench, B. (2014). Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology.  London:  Routledge.

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

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

Gregory, J. & Miller, S. (1998) Science in public – communication, culture and credibility, Cambridge MA: Perseus Publishers.

Habermas, J. (1997). Theory of Communicative Action. Cambridge: Polity Press (2 Volumes) [Distinction between instrumental and communicative action.]

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

Illich I (1975) Medical Nemesis – the expropriation of health, London, Calder & Boyars.

Jamieson KH, D Kahan and DA Scheufele (2017) (eds) Oxford Handbook of Science Communication; Oxford, OUP.

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

Roedder S., Franzen, M., & Weingart, P. (Eds) (2012). The sciences’ Media Connection - public communication and its repercussions, Sociology of Sciences Yearbook 28, Dordrecht: Springer.

G Sammut and MW Bauer (2021) The Psychology of Social Influence – Modes and Modalities of Shifting Common Sense, Cambridge, CUP

Seale, C. The Media and Health. Sage, 2002.Tones K. and Green J. (2006). Health promotion: planning and strategies. London: Sage.


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

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2020/21: 31

Average class size 2020/21: 16

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

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