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Unit information: Health Inequalities, Law, and Society in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

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. Syrett
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

The Unit will provide 30 contact hours, comprised in eight topic/approach-focused lectures, two lectures focused on feedback and coursework preparation, and ten seminars incorporating mixed teaching and learning methods.

Assessment Details

The summative assessment for this Unit will be in the form of 2 x 3000-word critical, discursive essays, weighted at 50% each. Students overall mark will be derived by the combined result of the two assignments.

The subject matter of the assignments will relate to practical points addressed through the learning and teaching, and will assess all of the intended learning outcomes of the Unit. This will be achieved cumulatively, with the first assignment aimed in particular at testing ILOs 1-5, and the second assignment testing all ILOs.

The formative assessment will be one 1500-word critical, discursive essay, set in teaching block one.

Additional opportunities for non-assessed formative work and feedback will be provided through mixed teaching methods and student-led tasks (e.g. presentations) in seminars.

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 points of textbook type reference include, but certainly are not limited to:

  • Works on the social determinants of (ill) health, such as:
    • Michael Marmot, Status Syndrome-How your place on the social gradient directly affects your health (Bloomsbury, 2012)
    • Michael Marmot, The Health Gap—Improving Health in an Unequal World (Bloomsbury (2016)
  • Chapters from broad-focused health law texts, such as:
    • John Coggon, Keith Syrett, A.M. Viens, Public Health Law: Ethics, Governance, and Regulation (Routledge, 2017)
  • Works relating philosophical concerns for justice/political theory with (social) epidemiology, such as:
    • Petr Skrabanek, The Death of Human Medicine and the Rise of Coercive Healthism (St Edmundsbury Press, 1994)
    • Norman Daniels, Just Health—Meeting Health Needs Fairly (Cambridge University Press, 2007)
    • Sridhar Venkatapuram, Health Justice: An Argument from the Capabilities Approach (Polity Press, 2011)

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