Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)

Module ANTH42515: Evolutionary and Ecological Topics in Medicine and Health

Department: Anthropology

ANTH42515: Evolutionary and Ecological Topics in Medicine and Health

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2014/15 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules


  • To examine contemporary health problems using evolutionary and ecological perspectives and to give students advanced subject-specific knowledge which is core to Evolutionary Medicine.


  • The course will consider a number of health issues of importance in low-income and more affluent contexts that may, include ethnicity and health, infectious diseases (e.g. HIV/AIDS, emerging infections) ageing and vaccine development, other topics of general and immediate interest within evolutionary medicine and anthropology. Evolutionary, ecological and evolutionary ecological perspectives will be emphasised and will be contrasted with more clinical perspectives. Students will acquire an advanced understanding of evolutionary and ecological theories surrounding various pathologies and will be expected to read and criticise primary and secondary literature.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To develop a good understanding of evolutionary and ecology theories as they apply to human health, disease and medicine
  • To understand at advanced level the theoretical and practical contributions of evolutionary medicine as applied to a number of pathologies, and contrast evolutionary and ecological perspectives with clinical approaches.
  • To understand at advanced level a number of evolutionary and ecological models of human diseases and how these have practical benefits for improving medical care.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Application of evolutionary and ecological approaches to contemporary health problems.
  • Ability to recognise and promote the practical benefits of Evolutionary Approaches to health.
Key Skills:
  • To complete written essays under examination conditions.
  • To develop skills in writing an abstract based on a longer piece of work.
  • To write critical reports using the relevant primary and secondary literature.
  • To develop the ability to work independently to identify and critique primary literature.
  • To develop skills in oral presentation.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • There will be an introductory one-hour Seminar with further seminars (1.5 hours each) run on a fortnightly basis. The format of the seminars may vary. Students will be expected to make presentations as part of some seminars, providing them an opportunity to develop presentation skills in a supportive environment. The coursework assignment tests skills of independent reading, understanding, analysis and presentation. Independent reading will reinforce the Learning outcomes. There will be an individual assessment comprising a Powerpoint poster (30%) and a 2,000 word essay (70%, both assignments to be based on topics in consultation with the course instructor(s).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 weekly then fortnightly 1.5 hours 12
Preparation and Reading ongoing 138
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: PowerPoint Poster Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Critical poster presentation using evolutionary and ecological approaches to explore a specific health issue 100% Yes
Component: 2,000 word essay Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
To write a critical essay on a relevant health topic discussed in class 2,000 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment will be: a) to write a formal abstract of 250 words using a journal paper supplied but with the abstract omitted, and b) initial draft of the Powerpoint Poster using reference criteria from the Human Biology Association (USA) Guide to Producing Effective Posters, and c) an initial draft of the summative essay.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University