autumn 2023
HEL-3005 Society, Culture and Public Health - 10 ECTS

Type of course

This course is mandatory for students at the Master's degree programme in Public Health. Course students may be admitted if total number of students do not exceed the regulated 30 number of students at the course.

Course content

The course offers a theoretical framework for critical reflections of issues related to social and cultural aspects of health, illness, sickness and disease.

The main topics are:

  • What creates health and illness? Medical and social determinants of health, with a focus on social determinants of health, and how the health of the population is connected to social, political and material conditions.
  • Social and geographical inequalities in health, what they look like, why they emerge, and how they can be reduced.
  • Different perspectives on health and illness, including the relation between biomedical, cultural and experiential perspectives.
  • Cultural perspectives on health and illness, related to three dimensions: cross-cultural differences, historical differences and differences between lay and professional perceptions.
  • Modern western conceptions of health and illness and medicalisation: expressions, driving forces and implications.
  • The importance of cultural sensitivity in health-related work and conceptions of health and illness in the indigenous Sami population.
  • Cultural understandings of professional knowledge and the practice of public health.

Objectives of the course

Knowledge and understanding

Students are expected to understand

  • how public health work builds on knowledge, assumptions and views about causes of diseases, and the role of the state in health promotion and disease prevention
  • how perspectives and theories from different scientific disciplines form the scientific basis of all public health related work
  • the relationship between culture, society and public health
  • social determinants that shape the health of a population
  • the relationship between health and society
  • socio-economic inequalities in health: what they look like, why they emerge, and how they can be reduced, and
  • the cultural dimension of health and illness and public health work.

Skills and competences

Students are expected to demonstrate ability to

  • reflect on public health issues on the basis of sociocultural perspectives, theories and explanations of health and illness
  • reflect on policy implications of different perspectives of health and illness
  • reflect on the culturally and historically contingency of conceptions of health and illness, and
  • to discuss public health issues on the basis of sociocultural perspective on health and illness.

General Proficiency

Students are expected to

  • obtain proficiency about how professional knowledge and clinical practice are influenced by the cultural context in which it is created and embedded; how all professional knowledge and practice of health professionals have normative elements, and why knowledge about the people and their culture is of vital importance for all who work with public health issues, and
  • develop respect for the intrinsic value of human beings, and tolerance for variations in human lifestyles.

Language of instruction and examination


Teaching methods

Lectures, video-presentations and organised group sessions during two 4 day long seminars, in addition to use of online learning management system. Attendance to lectures and seminars is mandatory. The lectures are given in English.

Information to incoming exchange students

This course is open for inbound exchange student with a Bachelor's degree (180 ECTS credits) in Health Sciences, Social Sciences or Natural Sciences, or equivalent qualification. For students who hold a Bachelor's degree in Social Sciences or Natural Sciences, the degree must contain a minimum 80 ECTS (or equivalent) within the fields specific to the Master's degree programme in Public Health; epidemiology, health economics, biostatistics, health sociology, global- and environmental health.


Examination: Date: Duration: Grade scale:
Off campus exam 22.09.2023 09:00 (Hand out)
06.10.2023 12:00 (Hand in)
1 Weeks A–E, fail F

Coursework requirements:

To take an examination, the student must have passed the following coursework requirements:

A written essay Approved – not approved
Attendance to lectures and seminars Approved – not approved
UiT Exams homepage

More info about the coursework requirements

  • Home assignment (a written essay) on a given topic (2-3,000 words), written in English. The students will be given two weeks to write the home assignment. This paper is compulsory, and has to be written individually. The home assignment should be handed in online. The assignment will be graded as approved or not approved.
  • Attendance to lectures and seminars is mandatory.

Re-sit examination

Re-sit examination is offered for the course.
  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 10
  • Course code: HEL-3005
  • Tidligere år og semester for dette emnet