Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module ANTH3297: Evolutionary Medicine of Maternal and Infant Health

Department: Anthropology

ANTH3297: Evolutionary Medicine of Maternal and Infant Health

Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • ANTH2111 Sex, Reproduction and Love OR ANTH2141 Global Health and Disease OR ANTH2061 Evolution, Variation and Adaptation


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To expose students to the perspective of evolutionary medicine as it relates to maternal and infant health
  • To encourage the critical appraisal of western biomedicine in the light of evolutionary theory as related to pregnancy, birth, early life and parenting issues.


  • Evolutionary medicine takes the view that many contemporary health issues are related to an incompatibility between the lifestyles and environments in which humans currently live and the conditions under which human biology evolved.
  • This module explores the ways in which questions about reproductive and infant health and disease can be reframed in consideration of an evolutionary perspective and new suggestions about treatment can be made.
  • Topics that may be covered include maternal health (e.g. pregnancy, child-birth, post-natal depression, lactation, maternal depletion) and infant health (e.g. thermoregulation, crying, SIDS, sleep, feeding and weaning).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Demonstrate advanced levels of current knowledge and intensive understanding in the application of evolutionary perspectives to a variety of contemporary maternal and infant health issues.
  • Be competent in accessing and assimilating specialised research literature of an advanced nature.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Articulate how applying an evolutionary lens to maternal and infant health informs current health care practices and interventions
  • Be able to evaluate evolutionary explanations of maternal and infant health issues and be able to articulate how these may be tested.
  • Deploy analytical skills specific to health issues informed by an evolutionary perspective.
Key Skills:
  • Preparation and effective communication of research methods, data, interpretation and arguments in written form.
  • Ability to translate academic knowledge into public interventions

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

  • An initial lecture will provide students with an outline of key knowledge and debates in the topic area, discuss the literature that students should explore, and provide relevant examples and cases studies.
  • Seminars will allow students to present and discuss required reading, to analyse studies in greater depth, and to prepare students for their summative assignment.
  • Tutorials will provide students with hands-on experience developing a health intervention, discussing their ideas, sharing their materials, and offering peer feedback.
  • Student preparation and reading time will allow engagement with specific references in advance of seminars and general and particular reading related to the development of their health intervention (summative report).
  • Summative assessment will consist of a 2,500-word intervention proposal in which students will apply concepts and perspectives covered in the course to design, describe and evaluate an evolutionarily-informed health intervention relevant to this module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 1 Beginning of term 1 hour 1
Seminars 5 Spread across one term 2 hours 10
Practicals 2 Spread across one term 2 hours 4
Preparation and Reading 85
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Intervention proposal 2500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

500-word intervention outline

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