Skip to content
You are viewing information for England.  Change country.

Introducing health sciences: a case study approach

This introductory OU level 1 module explores the scientific and social aspects of disease and disability in a global context through seven case studies: water and health in an overcrowded world; pain; alcohol; screening for breast cancer; chronic lung disease; trauma and accidents; and visual impairment. Each case study integrates the biological, chemical, and physical sciences with psychology, health statistics, and social studies to illuminate underlying causes and personal and societal consequences. You’ll develop skills in: evaluating evidence; understanding and using key scientific terms and concepts; handling numbers; and interpreting graphs and tables. You’ll also learn to study using ICT – including interactive DVDs, internet and online resources.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level 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
Study level
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

Student Reviews

I completed the SDK125 course in June 2014. It was my first module with the OU and found it extremely...
Read more

I absolutely loved this course! I found the material great in explaining ideas, although it does cover a wide range...
Read more

Request your prospectus

Explore our subjects and courses

Request your copy now

What you will study

If you’re interested in global health issues; how the body works; statistics; or the scientific rationale for common screening procedures and treatments, this module is for you. You’ll also find this module useful if you are, or want to be, working in a health-related occupation and some knowledge of science could enhance your prospects. It’s unique in presenting a global perspective on health topics and in the range of scientific disciplines that contribute to each case study. The impact on individual lives is illustrated by real-life accounts. It’s designed for you if you are new to science, and we’ll support you step-by-step if you’re unfamiliar with using a computer to learn from interactive programs and online sources. The seven case studies covering major topics in global public health are presented in seven books with associated study companions and DVD-ROMs containing videos, computer models and interactive animations.

Book 1 Water and Health in an Overcrowded World. Most people now live in a very different world to the one in which we evolved. Rapid urbanisation and changes in human lifestyles means we inhabit a ‘human zoo’ that, despite many benefits, incurs many costs to health and happiness. We focus on the global shortage of clean water that exposes over a billion people to infectious diseases and chemical pollution.

Book 2 Pain. This case study presents an integrated account of the neurobiology and psychology of pain. It considers the common properties of pain triggered by injuries and the pain of events such as divorce. You’ll study the anatomy and function of the nervous system combined with psychological processes such as classical conditioning to understand how effective drugs, surgery, placebos and cognitive therapies are in treating pain.

Book 3 Alcohol and Human Health. Heavy drinking increases the risk of life-threatening diseases; accidental injury; psychological impairment; and addiction, but moderate intake may have some health benefits. You’ll explore not only global health statistics, but also the chemistry of ethanol: how alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream and its effects on major organs, behaviour and memory.

Book 4 Screening for Breast Cancer. Mammography screening using X-ray imaging to detect early breast cancers occurs in most wealthy countries. This case study examines the physics of mammography, the rationale for screening and the risk factors for breast cancer, and explains how normal and abnormal cells are distinguished in diagnostic tests. It considers the benefits, efficacy, costs and drawbacks of screening.

Book 5 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Forgotten Killer. Permanent loss of lung function due to COPD affects millions of people worldwide. In richer countries, most are older cigarette smokers, but in poor countries, younger women and children exposed to indoor smoke from cooking fires also suffer. This case study explains the science of respiration and treatment, and the effects of COPD on people’s lives.

Book 6 Trauma, Repair and Recovery. Traumatic injury causes millions of deaths and disabilities globally and cases are rising as road traffic increases. You’ll look at how the body reacts to tissue damage, focusing on limb fractures in younger and older people. The psychological – as well as the physical – effects of injury are considered in the context of variations in access to emergency and longer-term care.

Book 7 Visual Impairment: A Global View. Partial or total loss of sight affects millions of people worldwide. Many cases are preventable or curable, but simple interventions are unaffordable in poorer countries, where even the lack of clean water is a significant threat to sight. This case study explains sight loss and corrective treatments through the anatomy and physiology of the eye and the physics of light and lenses.

You will study this module before or alongside Health sciences in practice (S110/SZL110), which teaches you more of the theory that you will need to support your practice

Introducing health sciences: a case study approach will help to prepare you for Exploring science (S104) and OU level 2 health sciences modules (for example, Human biology (SK277) or The science of the mind: investigating mental health (SDK228)). By the end of the module you will be expected to be working successfully at the level required of first-year undergraduate students.

Vocational relevance

This module will be attractive to anyone interested in a career in the areas of health care; health promotion; the pharmaceutical and food industries; technical support in the NHS; occupational, environmental and public health; as well as teaching in any of these fields.

Professional recognition

This is a compulsory module in the Foundation Degree and Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) in Paramedic Sciences, which are all accredited routes to professional recognition by the Health Professions Council.

Although this module is available for study by all OU students, the foundation degree and DipHE are at present restricted to students who are employed within a healthcare setting and are being supported in their practice learning by their employer.  

For further information on registering, you or your employer should contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. 

Some activities will involve collaborative work among the students in your tutor group, conducted online via the forum network with support from your tutor. Participation in these activities will be essential in enabling you to complete some of the assessed work for this module.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about studying 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

The details given here are for the module that starts in February 2015 when it will be available for the last time. An induction week for students who are new to studying with the OU is scheduled for the week before the official module starts.

A replacement module is planned for October 2015.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
7 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you to progress to OU level 2 study. 

This module is for students who are new to science, as well as those with some background in a science-related subject. Although you’re not expected to have any previous knowledge of science, you should be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide simple whole numbers, and to understand written English of the standard of a broadsheet newspaper (The Daily Telegraph or The Guardian, for example). If you haven’t studied science or maths up to GCSE level fairly recently, or you’re new to using a computer to access online or DVD-based resources, you should expect to spend longer on the study materials. Our Student Registration & Enquiry Service will be able to discuss with you how much extra time you are likely to need and whether you should consider doing some preparatory study before beginning SDK125.

Our package Are you ready for science study? offers an interactive quiz to help you decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the module.

Introducing health sciences: a case study approach will help to prepare you for Exploring science (S104) and OU level 2 health sciences modules (for example, Human biology (SK277) or The science of the mind: investigating mental health (SDK228)). By the end of the module you will be expected to be working successfully at the level required of first-year undergraduate students. 

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

If you wish to improve your study skills, you are advised to read The Good Study Guide (2005) by Andy Northedge, published by The Open University.

This module includes study materials for an induction week to help you begin to develop skills in using a computer to access online learning resources from a website, communicate with others in your tutor group via an online forum and load the DVD-ROMs. These skills are practiced and reinforced during the rest of the module.


Start End England fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Sep 2015 £1316.00

Registration closes 08/01/15 (places subject to availability)


The deadline for financial support applications has now passed

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

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 annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

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

Employer sponsorship

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

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification 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 modules.  

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. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

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

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.

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 fee and funding information provided here is valid for courses starting before 31 July 2015. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation. Fees for courses starting from 1 August 2015 will be available in March 2015.
This information was provided on 22/12/2014.

What's included

Seven individual printed module books with study companions; support materials for induction week; glossaries; assignments; DVD-ROMs; a website; and a module index.

You will need

You may need to draw diagrams or graphs and then use either a scanner or a digital camera to produce files of these diagrams for inclusion in your assessment.

You will also need a headset, with a microphone and earphones, to talk to your tutor and other students online during some of the module activities.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some module software provided on disk.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2008 you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile device is not suitable for this module – check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this module by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

Please note that this module makes substantial use of complex visual material in the texts and includes a large number of interactive multimedia packages on DVD-ROMs. You will need to spend at least two hours in most study weeks using a personal computer to access module resources supplied on DVD-ROMs or via a website or other internet sites. Some assessment tasks are conducted collaboratively within your tutor group and require you to communicate with your tutor and other students via a computer-based forum. At the end of each case study, there is a block of electronic computer-marked assessment questions that are accessed, answered and submitted online via the website. If you use special hardware or software you must, well before the module begins, find out whether it works with the module software. Students with severe visual impairments may be able to achieve the learning outcomes if they are assisted by a sighted helper.

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and musical notation and mathematical, scientific and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in future.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.