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Critical issues in health and wellbeing

Imagine a world in which everyone feels safe, valued for who they are, and is able to participate with confidence in society in a way which supports their health and wellbeing. This module considers what the health and social care system of this type of society would look like and what would need to be in place for staff and service users to successfully work within it. To allow you to explore these issues you will be introduced to contemporary material and theories that explore how health and wellbeing can be affected by factors at individual, relational and society level.

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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.

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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.
Level of Study
2 9 5

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

This module will explore the key concepts of health and wellbeing. You’ll learn that while these concepts may seem straightforward, they are actually contested issues that are increasingly important when considering health and social care provision.

Using case studies based on real world topics, you will learn how society’s ideas about health and wellbeing shapes current health and social care practice. Each of the real world contexts you are introduced to will have an emphasis on the ways in which these ideas particularly affect the staff who work in these areas and the people who use the services. You’ll be strongly encouraged to reflect upon how our health and social care system needs to be structured if we are to support individuals in feeling positive about their health and wellbeing.

During the module you’ll explore the factors that affect our core sense of health and wellbeing using three core themes: Resilience and aspirations; Identity and meaning; Power and participation. These themes will be used to help you challenge the widely held view that health and wellbeing can only be affected by the individual, and allow you to consider how factors at relationship and society level can also impact on our sense of health and wellbeing.

This module is made up of four blocks of study, each introducing case studies based on the real world, together with key academic theories that will allow you to think more deeply about practical and theoretical issues.

Block 1: Critical issues and the individual
In the first block you’ll focus on health and wellbeing at the level of the individual person and explore what it is that makes people resilient or vulnerable. You will learn about the core theoretical models that are useful for thinking about health, illness and wellbeing. You’ll also explore the role the individual plays in aspiring towards better health and wellbeing.

Block 2: Critical issues in relationships
The second block moves outwards from the level of the individual to consider the impact of relationships that individuals find themselves within. You’ll explore how family, work and social relationships affect health and wellbeing.

Block 3: Critical issues in service provision
The third block looks at health and wellbeing from the perspective of service providers. You’ll ask whether services that are fundamentally designed to treat illness can also support health and wellbeing. You will also explore how staff can work together with individuals and examine the role that services users play in these partnerships.

Block 4: Critical issues in society
In this final block the core themes from across the module come together to examine the health and wellbeing of society in its broadest sense. You’ll learn how and why services designed to address illness and disease have evolved. You will also consider why inequalities persist in society and learn how public health measures have tried to address them.

You will learn

By studying this module we anticipate that you will not only develop your understanding of health and social care provision but will also develop academic and employability skills that are essential for the world today.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout this module you will be supported by a personal tutor. This support can take a variety of forms and include the use of several modes of contact. To ensure you are supported in a way that meets your unique needs, at the outset of the module you will be asked to consider whether you are best supported in your learning through one-to-one telephone contact or email communication with your tutor.

You will also be strongly encouraged to engage in group learning with your fellow students through innovative and collaborative activities, as well as tutor hosted learning events. You will also be provided with written feedback on your TMA submissions that is designed to guide your future TMA submissions.

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 must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

Critical issues in health and wellbeing​ starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2023, the last time we expect it to start.


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

    Course work includes:

    4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    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 Introducing health and social care (K102) 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.


    Start End England fee Register
    07 Oct 2023 Jun 2024 £3462.00

    Registration closes 07/09/23 (places subject to availability)

    October 2023 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 set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, 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, Mastercard, Visa 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).

    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 fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2024. Fees normally increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

    This information was provided on 31/05/2023.

    Can you study an Access module for free?

    In order to qualify, you must:

    1. be resident in England
    2. have a personal income of less than £25,000 (or receive qualifying benefits)
    3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above, or completed 30 credits or more of OU study

    How to apply to study an Access module for free

    Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible.

    If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069 or you can request a call back.

    Not eligible to study for free?

    Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

    • monthly payments through OUSBA
    • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

    To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

    What's included

    This module is almost entirely delivered through online learning guides. You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • course specific study material
    • audio and video content
    • assessment details
    • access to online tutorials and study forums
    • access to teaching and library resources

    You will also be guided to find and research for relevant resources using the OU Library.

    Computing requirements

    You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).

    Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

    It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K219 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 Disability support website.