Health, Medicine and Society

A multidisciplinary understanding of public health through multiple perspectives on health, disease and medicine. 

Despite the WHO’s 1948 definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease’, health in the dominant discourse has tended to be skewed towards medicalised notions of disease and curative care. This conceptualisation follows from the dominant paradigm of biomedicine that locates health in individual bodies/​pathologies to be treated through medical and technological solutions alone. A bio-medicalised understanding of health tends to obscure multiple perspectives and experiences on health, health care and well-being. More importantly, it underplays the fact that health (including public health) is necessarily situated in society’s social, economic and political structures and processes. 

The persistence of health inequities (along regions, caste, class, gender, ethnicity), necessitated a comprehensive and robust understanding of how health (and illness) of individuals and populations is produced, experienced and practiced. Public health researchers and policy makers increasingly recognise the need to go beyond individual pathology and biomedical care to address wider determinants of health.

This course will introduce you to a social and political understanding of health, illness and medicine, drawing on key analytical perspectives from social sciences, specifically, medical sociology/​anthropology and the recent inter-disciplinary field of Health Systems and Policy Research (HPSR). Drawing on learning from the core courses, this course will show you how to situate health in relation to societal goals of equity, human rights and social justice.