SOC20270 Sociology Health & Inequality

Academic Year 2023/2024

The intersection of health and inequality is a core concern of any society. Who has access to adequate healthcare and at what cost is a fixture of social and political debate, permeating recent elections in Ireland, the Brexit vote and the expansion of private health insurance under “Obamacare” in the US. To the extent that affluence and relative deprivation determine the health of a society, the implication for health of economic and social inequality is clear. In other words, it is no accident that health disparities are intimately related to other forms of inequality such as income and, in particular, wealth.

This module intends to provide a theoretical lens through which the link between health and inequality more broadly can be understood and interrogated. Students will explore the core theoretical models underpinning how sociologists understand (1) the social determinants of health, (2) the two-way street of health and wealth, (3) the role of public policy in the provision of healthcare and (4) the intersection of health and social mobility. Throughout, an effort will be made to link abstract theory with concrete examples. Given that foundational work in health inequality emerged from comparing multiple country contexts, an international comparative perspective will be maintained. The intention is for each student to leave the classroom with the ability to understand at the macro- and micro-level how inequality determines health and vice versa.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

The broad goal of this module is that students leave the classroom with the ability to understand at the macro- and micro-level how inequality determines health and vice versa.

Learning outcomes for this module aspire to the following goals:
• Demonstrate ability to critically analyse sociological theories of the social determinants of health.
• Show capacity to critically apply theories and concepts of health and inequality to selected case-studies.
• Exhibit personal, social and communication skills needed to contribute to group project;
• Demonstrate critical writing ability to construct, support and summarise argument that links concepts and cases of
comparative social change.

Indicative Module Content:

The module will be organised around the following themes, which will correspond to lectures, readings and group work:

(1) Introduction – Social Determinants of Health
(2) Inequality
(3) Work
(4) Education
(5) Drugs, Sex and Violence
(6) Gender, "Race" and Ethnicity
(7) Diet, Nutrition and Health
(8) Neighborhoods, Communities and Immigration
(9) Life course, Early Life and Aging
(10) Health – Ireland from a Global Perspective
(11) Toward a Healthier Tomorrow

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Students will be engage with lecture and group/team-based projects.

Attending lecture:
Students should consider each other’s opinions with the upmost respect. This means that we must consider each other’s opinions to be of value equivalent to our own and our tone, demeanor and comments should reflect this high level of respect. There may be topics that evoke strong reactions, but the classroom must always remain a safe space. I will have zero tolerance for any behavior that creates an intimidating atmosphere or limits the participation of any member of the class. Students who do not comply with these expectations will be removed and there continued participation in the module can be reconsidered. To be clear, we do not have a right to be protected from ideas that make us uncomfortable, but we have a reasonable expectation that any idea will be expressed in a respectful manner. When in doubt, error on the side of politeness.

Group/team dynamics:
You are responsible for working collaboratively. That means that you must make arrangements to meet with your group (digitally or in-person). You must be clear about what you are contributing and that needs to be understood EARLY in the process by all groups members. The simple way to avoid any and all confusion is to follow the golden rule. Do not treat others in the groups any differently than you would expect to be treated. Remember you are collectively responsible for this work and individualizing problems will not work to your advantage.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

Students need to engage with collaborative, team-based group work.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: Project Week 7 n/a Graded No


Examination: Final comprehensive examination 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will be provided on assessed coursework as individual comments published in the virtual learning environment (VLE), in group sessions at lectures/seminars, and/or in person during office hours as appropriate.

Burke, S. (2009) Irish Apartheid: Healthcare Inequality in Ireland. Ireland: New Island. [ISBN-13 978-1-84840-036-8]

Marmot, M. and Wilkinson, R. G. (2005) Social Determinants of Health. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. [ISBN-13: 978-0198565895]

Marmot, M. (2015) The Health Gap: The Challenge of an Unequal World. New York, New York: Bloomsbury Press. [ISBN-13: 978-1632860781]

Wilkinson, R. G. (2005) The Impact of Inequality: How to Make Sick Societies Healthier. Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge [ISBN-13: 978-1595581211]

Wilkinson, R. G. and Pickett, K. (2011) The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. New York, New York: Bloomsbury Press. [ISBN-13: 978-1608193417]

Wilkinson, R. G. and Pickett, K. (2018) The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everybody's Wellbeing. Allen Lane/Penguin Books. [ISBN: 978-0141975399.]

Bartley, M. (2017) Health Inequality: An Introduction to Concepts, Theories and Methods. UK: Polity. [ISBN-13: 978-0-7456-9109-1]
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Mon 11:00 - 11:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Wed 13:00 - 13:50