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Since 1800, human life expectancy at birth has doubled globally and tripled in the most favoured nations. This has been a biological and social achievement of great complexity, and no single factor—public health, income, material resources, medical knowledge, technology, individual behaviour, social organization—can explain this progress in survival. Neither can any one theory or discipline provide a satisfactory account. This will be an interdisciplinary investigation drawing on biology, medicine, epidemiology, demography, history, politics, economics and the medical social sciences. The subject will follow the health transition from the late eighteenth century to the present day, exploring in historical sequence the social interventions, economic changes and advances in scientific knowledge that have enabled increasing proportions of human beings to live longer. It will review critically the roles of public health; medicine; wealth, income and economic development; famine, malnutrition and diet; households and individuals; literacy and education. It will engage students with workshops in interdisciplinary case studies across time and place. Students who take this subject will obtain a rich, interdisciplinary understanding of the complexity of human mortality in social context, and of the reciprocity between biology and culture.
This University Breadth Subject is an exercise in the explanation of complexity i.e. the rise in human life expectancy that is a biological, biomedical, cultural, economic, ecological, political and moral phenomenon, with those elements varying in their explanatory significance over time and place.
It therefore needs to be explored by practitioners of those disciplinary perspectives being seen to work together—as in fact they do in the real world of population health, health delivery and health policy.
Intended learning outcomes
- To comprehend the complexity of population health and human mortality and morbidity in their socio-economic and ecological contexts;
- To appreciate the complexity of medical interventions, their delivery, effects and limitations;
- To demonstrate the multi-disciplinarity of human health and medical care and the interdisciplinarity of the practice of both biomedical care and public health administration and delivery;
- To acquire a literacy in the application of quantitative and qualitative evidence in socio-medico-economic problems
- Critical thinking and enhanced literacy across a range of disciplines and the development of written and verbal communication both for scholarly purposes and knowledge transfer
- Encourage the development of ability to synthesise a wide range of materials
- Collaborative learning and constructive team membership through tutorial classes and the assessment procedures
- Effective use of the library and research support services and of information technology for the gathering and assessment of a wide variety of inter-disciplinary materials
Last updated: 9 September 2021