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Critical issues in health and wellbeing

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

Course work includes:

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

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