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Unit information: Health Inequalities, Law, and Society in 2021/22

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name Health Inequalities, Law, and Society
Unit code LAWDM0130
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. John Coggon
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The Health Inequalities, Law, and Society Unit takes a ‘ground up’ approach to entering study of health and law. It begins with reference to observations derived from social epidemiology regarding the links between social status and health opportunities and outcomes, and explores how these may be analysed through critical works in social justice. Two ideas in particular pervade the Unit: first, through a more political lens, the Unit examines how different perspectives lend different views on how health inequalities should be understood, and on what constitute appropriate measures to address them; second, through a more societal lens, the Unit examines how different modes of social engagement can be seen to practically to feed into health law and governance.

Intended learning outcomes

The Unit aims to develop an understanding of Health Inequalities, Law, and Society, and develop a broad, socially-embedded approach to the study of questions in health law. As appropriate, these will be considered in light of associated philosophical, political, and regulatory perspectives.

On completion of the Unit, students should be able to:

  1. Analyse critically health inequalities
  2. Have a critical understanding of different means of evaluating and responding practically to health inequalities
  3. Undertake independent research and critical analysis in relation to questions raised on the Unit
  4. Apply critically such knowledge and understanding within a discursive, critical essay
  5. State and analyse relevant law and other modes of regulation accurately
  6. Apply legal and political principles to practical questions concerning health inequalities
  7. Evaluate critically the overall area of Health Inequalities, Law, and Society

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous activities

Assessment Details

2 x summative assessments: 2x coursework with a specified word count (50% each)

The assessment will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Reading and References

Given the innovative nature of this Unit, there is not a suitable ‘core’ textbook. As such, a rich range of specific readings will be provided within the Unit Guide as updated annually. These will include textbook readings, but will draw extensively from primary legal and regulatory materials, and secondary materials such as public reports and academic works.

Indicative readings include, but certainly are not limited to:

  • Michael Marmot, The Health Gap—Improving Health in an Unequal World (Bloomsbury, 2016)
  • Jo Bibby, Grace Everest, Isabel Abbs, Will COVID-19 be a watershed moment for health inequalities? (Health Foundation, 2020)
  • Petr Skrabanek, The Death of Human Medicine and the Rise of Coercive Healthism (St Edmundsbury Press, 1994)
  • Sridhar Venkatapuram, Health Justice: An Argument from the Capabilities Approach (Polity Press, 2011)
  • Madison Powers and Ruth Faden, Social Justice: The Moral Foundations of Health and Health Policy (Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice (Harvard University Press, 2011)

Students’ critical understanding and approaches will be informed by works in legal, political, and social theory.