England.  Change location

Critical ideas in wellbeing and public health

Qualification dates
Start End

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. What would such a society’s health and social care system look like? What would need to be put in place for staff and service users to achieve this world? These are the fundamental questions this module will address. Each study week 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.

What you will study

This module explores the key concepts of health and wellbeing, and a big part of that is public health. 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. You'll look at the factors that affect our core sense of health and wellbeing. Our health is not just a matter of individual health, this module allows you to consider how relationships and society level factors can also impact on our sense of health and wellbeing.

This module is made up of four blocks of study, each with four weeks of teaching. Each block focuses on a particular area associated with health and wellbeing, and uses a case study based on the real world, together with core academic theories that will allow you to think more deeply about practical and theoretical issues.

Block 1: Critical issues and the individual
You'll begin with a focus on health and wellbeing at the level of the individual person. You'll learn about the core theoretical models that are useful for thinking about health, illness and wellbeing.

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

Block 3: Critical issues in service provision
The focus moves up another level to look 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'll 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 you'll draw together the core themes from across the module 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'll also consider why inequalities persist in society and learn how public health measures have tried to address them.

Throughout the module, teaching is built around an interactive online learning guide, accompanied by with a set readings designed to support your study, audio visual material chosen specifically to highlight particular real world issues relevant to health and wellbeing, and journal articles that you will be able to access directly from the library. You'll also be encouraged to spend some of your study time searching for online resources from The Open University and engaging in skills to develop your academic study. By the end of this module you will have developed a range skills that will enable you to be an independent explorer of knowledge.

Entry requirements

There are no entry requirements for this module. This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have the study skills required for both higher education and distance learning, obtained either through OU level 1 study or from equivalent study elsewhere.

We recommend that you should have studied either Introducing health and social care (K102) or Wellbeing across the lifecourse (K119) before studying this module, or any other OU level 1 module.

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

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • online learning guides with text, graphics, quizzes (for self-assessment)
  • a range of media resources
  • assessment details
  • access to online tutorials and study forums
  • access to teaching and library resources

There are additional resources available on the module website designed to support your online learning. 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 Ventura 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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


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

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K212 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Critical ideas in wellbeing and public health (K212) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2031.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
2 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment