Science, Technology & Society, University of Wollongong

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Subject objectives

As a result of involvement in the activities of this subject, you should be able to:

1. Demonstrate understanding of a substantive body of theories relevant to the politics of medicine and health;

2. Identify and characterise different theoretical approaches to the analysis of medical knowledge and practice, and assess the advantages, problems and implications of these approaches;

3. Apply some of these theoretical approaches and appropriate sociological concepts to examples of health and medical issues;

4. Identify the roles of various groups and social institutions in creating, perpetuating or challenging interpretations of health problems and issues and of the principal debates, contending viewpoints and claims concerning them;

5. Critically examine and evaluate examples of contemporary debates in medicine and health.

In addition you will have developed your skills

(i) in finding and using arguments and information;

(ii) in summarising and critically evaluating such material;

(iii) in essay writing and seminar presentation.

This subject will expose you to a variety of issues and theories relevant to medicine and health. You are expected to use your initiative in reading about both issues and theories and in writing the essay, with guidance and support from me.

In the first few weeks of class I will run some exercises on issues and theories. We will spend plenty of time working on formulating your essay topics. Working out the idea for a good essay is sometimes harder than actually doing it! A vital aspect of the subject is group activity. I will be available to consult with groups during class time and at other times as required.


Mondays, 3.30-6.30pm, room 19.2061

Classes will include discussions, guest lectures, student-designed activities, a field trip and other activities to be decided.

Class activity, 30%

Journal, 20%

Essay draft, 10%

Essay, 40%

Attendance (see notes below)

Class activity

Students will self-select into groups of 2 to 4. Each group will pick—with my approval—a topic in the field of medicine and health, such as nutrition, mental health, quality assurance or technology in health care. During weeks 5 to 8, each group will coordinate a “class activity” around their chosen topic, to help others understand the topic in its social context. To deal with the “social context,” you can either explicitly use a theory (such as professional dominance, corporatisation, political economy or sociology of medical knowledge) or show how your topic fits into a “big picture” of health and medicine (namely how it relates to other topics and perspectives in the field).

Avoid lecturing and instead consider using debates, quizzes, role plays and small group exercises. Consider using overheads, handouts, tapes and videos. Try to relate your topic to the experiences of class members. You should also include some method to evaluate how well everyone has understood what you are trying to get across. Time allocated for each class event will be at least 30 minutes times the number of group members, e.g. 90 minutes for a three-person group.

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