Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)

Module ANTH43815: Public Health Anthropology

Department: Anthropology

ANTH43815: Public Health Anthropology

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


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide students with a range of theoretical perspectives and approaches within public health anthropology which they can apply to a range of contemporary issues.


  • Public health will be defined according to the UK Faculty of Public Health, namely: “the science and art of promoting and protecting health and well-being, preventing ill-health and prolonging life through the organised efforts of society”. The module will cover the three key domains of public health, viz. health improvement, health services, and health protection.
  • Key theoretical and methodological approaches within public health anthropology:
  • Medical ecology, symbolic approaches, ethno-medicine, critical public health anthropology, political ecology, engaged anthropology.
  • Using these approaches to examine critically a range of contemporary issues in public health. While examples will be taken from around the world, the focus will be on issues facing contemporary industrial and post-industrial societies. Topics will be chosen that address and interrogate key tensions in public health, viz.:
  • Engagement/critique
  • Public/private
  • Action/behaviour
  • The nature of ‘evidence’
  • Inequality/equity
  • Biology/culture
  • Local/global

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • a) Key theoretical approaches within public health anthropology
  • b) Overview of key contemporary issues and debates within public health anthropology
Subject-specific Skills:
  • a) Ability to critically evaluate and apply anthropological theory to a range of contemporary issues in public health.
  • b) Ability to synthesise, critically evaluate and present complex anthropological material, including data, models and theoretical arguments.
Key Skills:
  • a) Ability to engage critically with a range of literature.
  • b) Ability to communicate succinctly and clearly in both oral and written format.
  • c) Ability to bring together and contrast different disciplinary perspectives on key contemporary issues

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

  • This is an intensive seminar-based course. Contributing teaching staff introduce theoretical contexts, topics and key issues, followed by student-led discussion. Seminars provide an opportunity for students to read, synthesize and present recent primary references and major reviews within both the medical anthropology and public health literatures. Students prepare presentations individually and collaboratively. Thus students are brought into contact with up-to-date research, are encouraged to evaluate it critically, and gain practice in presenting relevant materials to others and in learning collaboratively.
  • Summative assessment consists of an essay of 3,000 words addressing one contemporary issue in public health. The essay topic will be selected by the student with a view to applying theoretical concepts from across the module, rather than simply material from only one or two sessions.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 Every 1-2 weeks 1.5 hours 12
Preparation and Reading 138
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment will be an annotated bibliography (1,500 words), to encourage wider reading and the ability to place what is read in the context of wider theoretical debates. Informal feedback on student presentations / discussions within seminars will also help students to hone their communication and critical evaluation skills.

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