Health and Health Inequalities - A Policy Context PUBPOL4029

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2 (Alternate Years)
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course examines the policy paradox of overall improvements in population health and significant inequalities in life expectancy within a Scottish, UK and international context and explores the causes of inequalities both within and outside the health care system. It addresses questions such as why poorer people die earlier than their richer counterparts. Students will focus on understanding the key influences that shape health care and public health policy particularly within the UK and on critiquing the key impacts of such policy.


One hour weekly lecture

One hour weekly tutorial

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory Entry Requirements

Entry to Honours Social & Public Policy normally requires a grade point average of 12 (grade C3) over Social & Public Policy 2A and 2B (formerly Public Policy 2A and 2B) as a first attempt.

Excluded Courses





1 essay of 2500 words (40%)

1 two hour exam (60%)

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable


Course Aims

This course aims to provide students with an opportunity to:

■ Develop an awareness of the concepts of health and health inequalities in a Scottish, UK and international context

■ Explore competing explanations of why poorer people die earlier - assessing for example the role of individual behaviours such as smoking and structural constraints like the availability of paid employment

■ Understand how and why a particular health care system (the UK National Health Service) has changed over time and across devolved administrations

■ Demonstrate an awareness of key criteria for developing a comparative perspective on health policy

■ Critically assess the role of health care and public health policies in improving population health and reducing health inequalities

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course, having attended the lectures and read the accompanying literature, students should be able to:

■ Identify the main trends in health and health inequalities in Scotland, the UK and internationally 

■ Describe the social determinants of health and of health inequalities, and critically assess different kinds of policies designed to address these determinants (for example how do strategies to change the negative health behaviours of individuals compare with legislative approaches?)

■ Identify some of the major issues in the organisation and delivery of the National Health Service

■ Critically evaluate the mechanisms by which policies introduced by successive governments have attempted to improve the nature and quality of services provided by the NHS

■ Assess the key differences between the Scottish and Westminster governments' approaches to solving contemporary health problems

■ Utilise a comparative perspective on policy development and implementation

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits