A Global Perspective on the Social Determinants of Health

A Global Perspective on the Social Determinants of Health
Describe the global phenomenon of Urbanization and its impact on health and health services

This unit deals with the mounting evidence that, world-wide, the health of individuals, groups and whole populations is significantly determined by social factors – the social determinants of health. The related research has its origins in concern for the growing inequalities in health both within and between countries. The unit examines the framework of the social determinants of health in a global perspective and includes a reflection on the phenomenon of globalisation and its impact, both positive and negative, on people’s health. Students will critically reflect on this relatively new and emerging body of knowledge and research which clearly situates the maintenance of health and healthy societies within their socioeconomic and socio-cultural contexts. They will also examine implications for policy, health systems and different groups within society.
1.1 A global perspective on the Social Determinants of Health: engagement with the literature

In an increasingly interlinked world there is much reflection on globalization and on its impact on the health of the world as a whole and of particular societies. You are expected to study the meaning of globalization and to reflect on its impact on health. You should become very familiar with the international literature on the subject and the impact for good or otherwise on the health of populations. In particular you should consider to what extent those benefits which there are in globalization are distributed equally or otherwise among populations. The unit deals with the impact of globalization on cultures: of the “homogenization” of cultures (as in food – the ubiquitous McDonalds is a supreme example). Your personal study should involve research not only into the international literature but into the impact of globalization on the health and well being of cultures and societies not covered in lectures but of relevance to yourself.

The framework chosen is that of the “Social Determinants of Health” (see the readings in the Unit Outline and in particular sessions). This framework, strongly promoted by the World Health Organisation, allows us to look at issues of Public Health in a global perspective as well as in local situations and cultures. Global warming, for example, is a world-wide phenomenon with potentially devastating health impacts on particular locations. The Social Determinants of Health perspective obliges us to look at the historical, political and cultural contexts of the places which are affected. The unit exposes the students to these global, local, political and historical perspectives. The principle involved is: “The clearer you see the causes of a problem, the more effective will be your proposed solution”. The student is therefore encouraged to study both global and local factors involved in the social determinants of health.

This process involves the student engaging with the literature on the topics involved (both “globalization” and health in society, the “social determinants”). The literature is vast and while guidance is offered, the student will be expected to “self-direct”, i.e. to use the library and the internet to obtain an up-to-date grasp of appropriate research. The libraries in UWS are very good and the staff will always be helpful: you must not be shy to ask for this help. As the recommended text by Macdonald says in the beginning: the first characteristic of a true academic is humility. We cannot know everything about this or any other topic. Ask for help – it is available!

It is important to document your readings: by half-way through the unit you should have read a considerable amount on the topic and have kept electronic notes on each reading. These should include a summary of the work read and your judgement of its value, including its appropriateness or otherwise to your own work context.

1.2 A global perspective on the Social Determinants of Health: personal and group reflection

The academic transition for many students, especially those from a clinical background is one which involves the move from memorisation of “facts” (like the steps involved in diagnosis and prognosis of tuberculosis) to intellectually engaging with Public Health issues and being able to argue a case for or against certain activities. Globalization and Social Determinants in Public Health involve complex and sometimes disputed issues. There are historical, biological, political and cultural factors involved. This unit encourages us not only to reflect on the numerous factors which affect the community’s health, but to demonstrate that we have made this personal reflection and reflected on the positions taken by what we find in the literature. It is not enough to say what we believe; we have to give the reasons why we do so.

The lectures are not intended to encourage passive listening. Students are encouraged to be active learners also in the lecture rooms and to engage in discussion with the lecturer and each other. Some readings will be offered which are essential reading; some sessions will begin with the group sharing on those readings, which is why they are called essential. Mutual respect is called for and the willingness to listen and learn from colleagues from different backgrounds, culture and experience. Particularly in the topic of globalization, this interchange should be one of the richest aspects of the process. Moreover, respectful and informed discussion is a crucial element of the formation of a balanced and informed personal opinion.

1.3 A global perspective on the Social Determinants of Health: application to particular contexts

Although the topic is “A global perspective / Globalization”, the student is expected to research personally the possible application of the issues studied to particular contexts she or he is familiar with. This will involve research in the libraries and on the internet and discussion with the lecturer.
2. Approach to Learning

As has been stated, this unit calls for an adult approach to learning. There must be a combination of personal reading, reflection on the material presented in the lectures, engagement with the literature (at least that offered to you in the unit) and dialogue with the lecturer and fellow students. What is called for is clear opinion informed by your own experience and the appropriate literature.

3. Expectations of Students
This is a 10 credit point unit. You should allocate 10 hours per week for this unit.
However, you know at start of session that the workload can seem to be less but when assignments are due and at session end it is much more than ten hours per week.
The sessions are in the evening from 6-9. There is an attempt to keep the session interesting and lively and this calls for active participation on the part of the students. Come prepared, having read the suggested literature. The University expects active listening, courteous and respectful behaviour as outlined in the University Code of Conduct. As Health Science students, these codes of conduct are consistent with the standards and expectations of behaviour in the field and are to be taken seriously. One example of inappropriate behaviour is talking in class with fellow-students or on mobile phones, i-pods etc which is disruptive, discourteous and unprofessional. Turn them off.
Attendance is compulsory at all sessions. If you are unwell or some misadventure occurs and you miss a group meeting, whether the formal or informal session, an apology is expected eg an email to the unit co-ordinator. You must also provide documentary evidence eg a doctor’s certificate or similar to the unit co-ordinator who collates and records all attendances for end-of-session reporting. Only originals or certified copies of originals will be accepted. Failure to attend two sessions is an indicator of at-risk progression and will be followed up by the unit co-ordinator.

Submission of Assignments
Assignments must be submitted electronically via Turnitin. Students are advised to read the print view version which highlights sources and does not affect formatting. This encourages students to actually read the Turnitin report. (At academic misconduct interviews it is often found that the report has not been read.) You may submit more than once to Turnitin right up to the due date/time. It is important to ensure that all sources are correctly acknowledged eg author and year and in aIDition quotation marks must be used when citing words of others ie for all quotes. Also quotations should be sparingly used eg 5% of the assignment – it is preferable to summarise and use your own words. Assignments submitted must include a copy of the Assignment Cover Sheet, but a signature is not required. Please note that students are not permitted to share assignment materials electronically or hard copy with current or past or future students. Hard copies of the assignments are not accepted in this unit.

Students are required to keep a copy of all work submitted- this is UWS policy for all units.

Resubmission of assignments is NOT permitted, unless exceptional circumstances apply and a special consideration application is lodged. The highest possible mark for a resubmitted assignment can be equal to, but no higher than the lowest passing mark awarded for that same assignment

A student who submits a late assessment without approval for an extension will be penalised by 10% per day up to 10 days, i.e. marks equal to 10% of the assignment’s weight will be deducted as a ‘flat rate’ from the mark awarded. For example, for an assignment that has a possible highest mark of 50, the student’s awarded mark will have 5 marks deducted for each late day. Saturday and Sunday each count as one day. Assessments will not be accepted after the marked assessment task has been returned to students who submitted the task on time.

4. Policies Affecting Students

As a Health Science student, it is critically important that you adhere to the policies of the University. In some professions, you must declare University policy breaches when you apply for membership or registration. Your understanding and adherence to policies can be important in your future careers.

This is why every unit learning guide has a section that identifies policies – so that you cannot say you ‘didn’t know’. It is your responsibility to make yourself familiar with the policies and what that means for your behaviour and work.

UWS has a number of important policies affecting students including:

• Assessment and Examinations Policy
• Assessment Practice – Fundamental Code
• Academic Misconduct Policy (see extract of the policy below under the heading “What is Academic Misconduct?”)
• Non-academic Misconduct Policy
• Enrolment Policy (includes a section on the UWS Student Email Account)

The full details of policies that apply to you as a UWS student can be found at:



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