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Planetary Health

Module titlePlanetary Health
Module codeHPDM122
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Kristin Liabo (Lecturer)

Dr Jessica Bollen (Lecturer)

Dr Tanimola Martins (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Globally and locally, health interconnects with social practices and systems shaped by environmental, social, economic, political and cultural motivations. This module will introduce you to the emerging field of ‘planetary health’. You will learn how this field brings together environmental, health and social sciences to enhance our understanding of health and environmental inequalities. You will be taught how to consider health and wellbeing in global, social and environmental contexts. No specialist knowledge is needed for this module, although an interest in interdisciplinary learning is essential. Your learning will be assessed in group work and by an essay in which you will consider a specific public health problem through the frameworks you have been introduced to.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The overarching aim of this module is to introduce you to planetary health and how knowledge from  social, health and environmental sciences can contribute to a more holistic and deeper understanding of public health at local, national and global levels. You will learn how health in its widest sense and health and environmental inequalities are created, and the potential strategies for addressing them more effectively. We will cover this over 6 sessions which will vary in length and provide teaching to enhance understanding of:

  • The link between local, national and global health
  • The role of theory development in understanding health and environmental inequalities
  • The interconnections between the health of the environment and human health, and wellbeing
  • Corporate and economic determinants of health and environment
  • Planetary boundaries to healthy and sustainable living
  • Disease control, prevention and health promotion: why we need a global approach
  • Lay understandings of health: majority and minority world perspectives

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understand contributions made to planetary health by research in sociology, social epidemiology, environment and human health, and global health
  • 2. Apply the interdisciplinary learning from the module to a case study of personal interest

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Understand how health and wellbeing are conditioned by social and environmental factors
  • 4. Critically appraise research papers related to planetary health
  • 5. Demonstrate the interconnectedness of health and wellbeing locally, nationally and globally

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Apply social and environmental understanding of human health and wellbeing to policy or practice planning in a range of context
  • 7. Identify important partners or levers for change in disciplines other than one’s own and on different levels of operation (macro-meso-micro)

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, an example of an overall structure is as follows:

By using the theme of food as the ‘golden thread’ running through all teaching sessions, students will be introduced to interdisciplinary perspectives, drawing on research studies in global health, environment and human health, medical sociology and social epidemiology.

  • Introduction to the module: interdisciplinary global and local health
  • Environmental, social, political and cultural drivers of health

Medical sociology/social epidemiology (local, global) – stigma, practices, culture, identity, politics.

  • Global public health: interconnecting health and environmental inequalities across continents, communicable diseases and policy frameworks

Obesity global rates, corporate and economic determinants of health, food/trade/aid/development (structural adjustment, food sovereignty), healthy diets and planetary boundaries. Global drivers for disease, food sovereignty / food systems.

  • Environment and human health

Introduction to basic concepts, health and environmental inequalities, antimicrobial resistance, climate and other environmental change, sustainability.

  • New approaches to global and national health challenges

Nature-based solutions, salutogenic environments, therapeutic landscapes, nature-connectedness and wellbeing, “social prescribing” and other social approaches to reducing communicable and non-communicable diseases.

  • Lay understandings of health and wellbeing

Considering whose voices are represented in research and policy debates on planetary health.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities15Delivered over six sessions, to include group discussion and preparation for group work. Pre-recorded lectures, resources and readings are accessed online. Each week has one live online session which is a combination of a lecture and workshop. Students are expected to work in groups to complete group work for each live session and present outputs from their work there.
Guided Independent Study65Session preparation and follow up work utilising resources provided on ELE
Guided Independent Study20Group work between sessions in preparation for presentations
Guided Independent Study50Reading and assignment preparation


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation15 min in teaching sessions1-7Facilitator and peer feedback
Small group discussions Throughout teaching sessions1-7Facilitator and peer feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1002500 words1-7Written feedback


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay (100%)Essay: (2500 words)1-7Typically within six weeks of the result

Re-assessment notes

Re-assessment is in the same format as for the first attempt

 Please refer to the TQA section on Referral/Deferral:


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Levy B, Patz J. “Climate Change and public health”. Oxford University Press, 2015. Available online Health 

Raworth, K. “A doughnut for the anthropocene: humanity’s compass in the 21st Century” The Lancet Planetary Health, 2017;1(2):E48-9

Whitmee, S. et al (2015) “Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch: report of the Rockefeller Foundation – Lancet Commission on planetary health. The Lancet, 386:

Baquero OS, Benavidez Fernández MN and Acero Aguilar M (2021) From Modern Planetary Health to Decolonial Promotion of One Health of Peripheries. Front. Public Health 9:637897.


Examples of further reading:

Atwoli L, Baqui A H, Benfield T, Bosurgi R, Godlee F, Hancocks S et al. Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health BMJ 2021; 374 :n1734 doi:10.1136/bmj.n1734

Baron et al, Feed people first: A service ecosystem perspective on innovative food waste reduction. Journal of Service Research 21 (1) 135-50. DOI: 10.1177/1094670517738372

Quantifying environmental health impacts. “Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks” WHO 2016:

Kelly, M., Russo, F. Causal narratives in public health: the difference between mechanisms of aetiology and mechanisms of prevention in nonâ??communicable diseases. In: Sociology of Health and Illness 2017, (includes a video introducing the main argument of the paper)

de Lacy-Vawdon, C., Livingstone, C. Defining the commercial determinants of health: a systematic review. BMC Public Health 2020, 20: 1022.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

National Food Strategy for England 2021

Key words search

Social epidemiology; environmental health; public health; medical sociology; global health; food systems; complex systems

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date

Feb 2020

Last revision date