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Health and illness

This module has a broad appeal to anyone with an interest in health and illness, whether it is for personal or professional reasons, and the variety of case studies that are used will encourage you to think about health beyond any traditional boundaries. You’ll examine health policy and practice relating to different models of health and illness care, including those associated with long-term conditions. You’ll also gain an insight into contemporary and emerging debates about this subject. Throughout the module you will be provided with opportunities to develop your critical thinking skills and to acquire the analytical and conceptual skills needed to link theory and practice.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

Browse qualifications in related subjects


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.

2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

This module comprises four study blocks.

Block 1 introduces the notion that health is everybody’s business, while recognising that there is great diversity in what people mean when they talk of health and the ways of researching, measuring and evaluating health. Underpinning the different ways of thinking about health are differing – and at times conflicting – values.

You’ll explore the influence of biomedicine on healthcare policy and practice, along with the challenges to that model that have arisen in response to debates about the role of social determinants of health and ill health. The block concludes with a study of childbirth that contextualises and debates the visions and values of health already discussed.

Block 2 develops the discussions relating to the social determinants of health. The concept of lifestyle is examined in terms of its focus on individual behaviours, the limiting effects of structural factors, and in particular structural inequalities. The health consequences of stress and the ways in which relationships determine health and wellbeing are critically considered, and the block concludes by contextualising the determinants of health already discussed through an examination of the diverse experiences of health and illness. Throughout the block, people’s experiences of long-term conditions are used to illustrate key concepts.

Block 3 moves on from examining the wider determinants of health and illness to consider the implications for practice. Issues such as self-care, caring, prevention of disease and ill health, and curing are explored, with health service provision being critically discussed. The final chapter of the block draws together key themes with a discussion of prevention, curing and care in relation to mental health and mental healthcare.

Block 4 considers health inequalities, their link to social and economic factors and the strategies that have been developed to tackle them. This includes a close examination of health policies over time. The role of public health in improving the health of the population is examined and the block concludes with an exploration of some of the ways in which local health action takes place. This is illustrated by an evaluation of case studies from each of the four nations of the UK.

You will learn

This module provides you with an insight into contemporary and emerging debates about health and illness. Specifically, the module encourages you to:

  • develop knowledge and understanding of medical, psychological, sociological, political and cultural perspectives on health
  • explore and evaluate the utility of different models of health for understanding health and healthcare and the experience of illness
  • review your own and alternative standpoints and values in health work
  • analyse current health policy and practice
  • review and evaluate local initiatives to improve health
  • interpret and evaluate health-related data and literature.

Your learning will take place through a series of online learning guides via the module website and through four study books. The learning guides provide a structured environment where you engage with academic readings, websites, journal articles, audio clips and a range of other learning elements that constitute the combined teaching material for the module.

Outside the UK

This module has learning content and case material that relate principally to the UK, although it does include some case studies from other countries. This does not preclude students outside the UK studying the module.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor to help you with the study material and to assess your ongoing progress by marking and commenting on your written work and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Most of the contact with your tutor and other students will be via email and online discussion forums. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

Health and illness starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018 when it will be presented for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Essential Documents website.

    Course work includes:

    5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    No residential school

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have the study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, obtained either through OU level 1 study, or from equivalent study elsewhere.

    Our OU level 1 module An introduction to health and social care (K101) would be ideal preparation.

    However, you don’t need any prior knowledge as the study material for this module is designed to be accessible if you are new to this subject.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    You will receive guidance on how to get started online in your first mailing. This will include information on using your computer for OU study and working with the Computing Guide. For example, the guidance explains how to access and use your module website and online discussion forums. If you have time before the start of the module you can work through this and explore all the online services available to you.


    Start End England fee Register
    06 Oct 2018 Jun 2019 £2928.00

    Registration closes 13/09/18 (places subject to availability)

    October 2018 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time convenient to you.

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2019. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 18/08/2018.

    What's included

    Module guide, four study books, Reader (Long-term conditions: challenges in health and social care practice), and other printed material. You will have access to a module website through which assessment, teaching and library resources are available. On the website there is a module map which explains how the study materials fit together, as well as electronic versions of most of the printed study materials.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • macOS 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K213 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Overcoming barriers to study if you have a disability or health condition website.