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Planetary Health

Module titlePlanetary Health
Module codeHPDM122Z
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Kristin Liabo (Convenor)

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, economic, political and cultural motivations. This module will introduce you to medical sociology, environment and human health, social epidemiology and global health. You will learn how these disciplines contribute to 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.

This module is delivered by distance learning via our online platform. Teaching will draw on a range of high-quality recorded lectures, interspersed with consolidation sessions, workshops and group work. Synchronous sessions will be held via Teams or Zoom.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The overarching aim of this module is to introduce you to how knowledge from the interconnections between four different disciplines 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 distinctive and complementary contributions made by each of the four key disciplines taught in this module (medical 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, across the four key disciplines
  • 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 of global health, environment and human health, medical sociology and social epidemiology. Other topics will also be covered.

  • 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

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

Looking back at learning in this module and considering whose voices are represented in the research we have examined.

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.
Guided independent study65Session preparation and follow up work utilising resources provided on ELE
Guided independent study20Group work offline between sessions in preparation for presentations
Guided independent study50Reading and assignment preparation
Face-to-face scheduled lectures will delivered via MS Teams/Zoom, with learning consolidated by self-directed learning resources and ELE activities. Small-group discussion in tutorials and seminars will be delivered by synchronous group discussion on Teams/ Zoom; or asynchronous online discussion.


Formative assessment

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

Frumkin H. (Editor) “Environmental health: from global to local”. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2016. 

King NB, Koski A. “Defining global health as public health somewhere else” BMJ Global Health, 2020;5:e002172 doi:10.1136/ bmjgh-2019-002172

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

Raynor G, Lang T. “Ecological public health: the 21st Century’s big idea?” BMJ, 2012;345:e5466


Examples of further reading:

Bunn et al “ ‘Coz football is all we have’: masculinities, practice, performance and effervescence in a gender-sensitised weight-loss and healthy living programme for men” Sociology of Health and Illness (2016) 38:5;812-28

Read with:

Hunt et al “A gender-sensitive weight loss and healthy living programme for overweight and obese men delivered by Scottish Premier League football clubs (FFIT): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial” The Lancet (2014) 838:9924;1211-21

Colchero, M, Popkin B, Rivera, J. & Wen Ng, Shu 2016. Beverage purchases from stores in Mexico under the excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages: observational study 

Epstein, S 1994 Construction of lay expertise (example from AIDS activism in the US) – links also to communicable diseases and inequalities in treatment (in this case due to the then limiting opportunities to be part of trials, which at that point were the only chance of survival

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Davies, S. 2019. Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer, 2019: health, our global asset – partnering for progress. Department of Health and Social Care

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


Last revision date