Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2017/18 Module Cap


  • None.



Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module aims to provide advanced training in topics and research methods relevant to understanding the socio-economic risks associated with variation in population health. The module places particular emphasis on risks operating at the collective, rather than the individual level. The module aims to provide a strong foundation in concepts and techniques that are essential to carry out research in this field and to apply research on social risks for population health to policy and practice, especially in fields of action beyond the medical sector.


  • The module will be organized in sections (or blocks) focused on substantive themes concerning the social risks to health that are associated with the ‘social determinants’ of health in populations. Topics will include risks to human health associated with: material poverty of environments; work/worklessness; community social capital and cohesion or fragmentation. We will consider perspectives emphasising social risks operating in different settings over the lifecourse. The significance of research in these fields for health and social policy and service provision will be discussed. The sessions will provide a basis for reviewing and applying knowledge of the factors influencing population health and wellbeing (e.g. in Health Impact Assessment of social policies and interventions). Consideration of these topics will be interwoven with practical training in how to apply methodological strategies and techniques including the following: ethnographic and other qualitative methods to identify and understand community level risks for population health; comparative measurement of population health and social conditions at the population level; comparisons of relative risks for different populations; epidemiological research designs to explore social determinants of health; Geographical Information Systems; systematic reviews, health impact assessment.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Advanced knowledge and understanding of the diversity of social risks involved in ‘wider determinants’ of population health (PK3)
  • Advanced understanding of methodological strategies and techniques required to understand community level risks for population health. (PK5)
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Acquisition of specific skills required to explore comparisons of relative risks for different populations (PS3)
Key Skills:
  • The ability to debate ideas, while recognizing and respecting the viewpoints of others (PG1)
  • Verbal presentation (PG1)
  • Team work in a workshop format (PG3)
  • Written communication (PG4)

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

  • The module is based upon the teaching equivalent to 10 x 2 hour lectures, 5 x 2 hour practicals and 5 x 2 hour workshops, totalling 40 contact hours for each student, and 260 hours of independent study. The contact hours will be organized in four blocks scheduled over two terms. The structure will enable students to build up their knowledge and competencies in rational steps with intervening periods when they are given a programme of reading and activity to consolidate the class learning. Each section of the course relates to a logical ‘sub-field’ within the broad field of ‘wider determinants of health’. The outline structure is as follows.
  • Term 1: Block 1: The introductory block of teaching will occur early in term 1 taking place over 1 day and will provide an introduction to the conceptual and methodological ideas in this module, the module structure, and ensure students have access to the set reading materials as well as background reading and literature search facilities essential for this module. This first block comprises 1x 2 hour Lecture followed by 1x2 hour workshop and 1x 2 hour practical.
  • Term 1: Block 2: This comprises sessions taking place over 2 consecutive days. Day 1 has 2x 2hr lectures (including substantive content relating to social aspects of material risks to population health and also explanation of the formative and summative assessment) and a related practical. Day 2 has 1x 2 hour lecture and related 1x 2 hr workshop on day 2. Lectures and practicals designed to provide conceptual frameworks and develop students’ skills and knowledge of relevant databases and research techniques.
  • Term 2 Block 3: Comprises sessions taking place on 2 consecutive days, with teaching on Work, Worklessness, WorkPlaces and Population Health comprising 4x 2hr lectures and 2 workshops, one of which is devoted to formative assessment presentations. Informal feedback on these can be provided on Day 2.
  • Term 2 Block 4: Teaching over 2 consecutive days on Applying Population Health Research to Policy (comprising 2 x 2 hr lectures and 4x 2 hr practicals and workshops). The lectures will include a review of the course as a whole.
  • Prior to blocks 2,3,4, students will have been sent details of introductory reading to prepare for these sessions and further, ‘follow up’ reading lists will be recommended to help them consolidate their learning.
  • Practical examples and applications of methods will be included in the lectures and related to each of these thematic lectures will be a practical activity which will provide students with more extended and in depth opportunities to work with relevant examples and application of the methods covered

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Varies, four blocks 2 hours 20
Practicals 5 Following lectures 2 hours 10
Workshops 5 Following lectures 2 hours 10
Self-directed learning 260
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Research Report Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Report 4000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Students will present an illustrative report on an aspect of social risk and health at a workshop. They will receive formative feedback from their colleagues (spoken comments following presentation) and from the tutor (written comments following presentation). The feedback will be designed to develop their skills and understanding, relevant to production of the written research report for their summative assessment. NB: formative work is a compulsory part of this module.

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