Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Sociologists who study the social construction of health, illness and wellbeing understand that the social production and distribution of health, and the social organisation of the health care professions shape and influence the individual's experience of well-being and illness. This unit explores conceptions of the 'body' in society, as an important focus of self-determination and identity and as a site of management and regulation. Students will consider how we experience illness and what are the personal and communal responses to this, including the framing of health care policy and health care systems. How much agency and responsibility do we have in relation to our own health and to the medical profession? The unit aims to apply relevant sociological theories, concepts, and evidence to the analysis of social phenomenon associated with health, illness and wellbeing and the challenging social, political and cultural implications of technological and scientific developments in medicine today.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify different sociological approaches and perspectives appropriate to the study of health, illness and wellbeing (GA4, GA5) 

LO2 - Demonstrate skills in sociological analysis and critical thinking through the collection and analysis of empirical data through a range of methods (GA4, GA8) 

LO3 - Communicate the sociological perspective in health, illness and wellbeing clearly and comprehensively through written and oral forms (GA8, GA9) 

LO4 - Apply relevant sociological theories, concepts, and evidence to the analysis of social phenomenon associated with health, illness and wellbeing (GA4, GA5, GA8) 

LO5 - Construct specific sociological arguments using relevant theories, concepts, and evidence relevant to health, illness and wellbeing (GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8) 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


The topics will be drawn from the following topics: 

  • The Body: Feminist theory and research, discussions of gender, deviance and the work of Foucault. The social construction of the healthy, fit, beautiful body. Regulating and controlling the body – cosmetic surgery; food, diet and eating. Disability, the body and technology. 
  • A sociological approach to food: the medicalisation of food; the obesity debate – epidemic or moral panic. 
  • The social distribution of health and illness: Defining illness and wellbeing. The relationship between class, gender, culture, ethnicity, location and health. 
  • Australian health policy and health care system in comparative global context. Access to care, Medicare. Complementary and alternative medicine.  
  • The social organisation of health care: Formal care - the structure of the hospital, the medical profession and para professions. Challenges to medical dominance. Alternative systems of care. Informal care: Dealing with short term and chronic ill health.  
  • The social construction of health, illness and wellbeing: the illness experience and chronic illnesses; the sick role; medicalisation, public representations of health, Familial and societal acknowledgements of the life stages.  
  • New technologies – who pays, who benefits, who decides? How much do we know – how much information is in the public arena? What is the role of the media and what are the public perceptions, concerns and debates? 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

The Learning and Teaching Strategy in this online unit places student learning and engagement at centre stage, with focus on individual and inquiry-based learning. Students are encouraged in learning of health, illness and wellbeing to draw on lived experience, and to complement this with weekly text readings and media analyses. Teaching involves integrated weekly online lectures and student learning activities. Along with content delivery from the lecturer, teaching strategies include, small group or online discussion and use of online, interactive multimedia and tools for in-class research. Skills in data analysis are developed and reinforced using data from large health data sets such as the ABS National Health Survey.  


This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures are used to meet unit learning outcomes and develop Graduate Attributes. Each of three assessment tasks is linked to a course topic of which there are three broad topics. The procedures include an analytical report based on empirical analysis of public health data and independent research within Topic 1. A written report of an aspect of the social construction of health, illness and wellbeing based on Topic 2 The socially constructed nature of health, illness and wellbeing, and an assessment of the application of concepts covered in Topic 3 through an examination-based assessment. The assessment tasks are sequenced to scaffold knowledge and skills taught in the course, and to assess for the application of sociological imagination, critical thinking and analysis, application of sociological concepts and theory in health sociology.  

Minimum Achievement Standards 

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for you to demonstrate your achievement of each learning outcome.  

In order to pass this unit, you are required to: 

  • Provide an acceptable quality of performance and through this demonstrate an acceptable standard of learning achievement in relation to the unit learning outcomes.  
  • Meet all assessment requirements as specified in the Unit Outline.  
  • Achieve 50% across all assessment tasks. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Analytical Task 

Students are required to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the sociological perspective as it pertains to health and well-being through a minor essay, and/or oral presentation as set by the lecturer. 


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Written Task 

Students are required to consider an aspect of sociological approach to health and well-being through an essay or research project. 


LO1, LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Final Exam/In Class Test 

The final exam will test students’ knowledge of the different topics covered in the unit. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Representative texts and references

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 

Germov, J. (ed.) 2018, Second opinion: An introduction to health sociology, 6th edition, Oxford University Press, Melbourne. 

Germov, J & Williams, L(eds). 2016, A sociology of food and nutrition: The social appetite, 4th edition. Oxford University Press, Melbourne. 

Grbich, C. (ed.) Health in Australia: Sociological concepts and issues. 3rd edition. Pearson Australia. 

Howson A. 2012 The body in society: An introduction, 2nd edition. Polity Press. 

Lupton, D. 2012 Medicine as culture: Illness, disease, and the body in western societies, 3rd. edn, Sage, London. 

Marmot, M.G. & Wilkinson, R G. (eds.). 2006, Social determinants of health 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, New York 

Nettleton S. 2013  The Sociology of Health and Illness.3rd edition. Polity, Cambridge, U.K.  

Turner, B.S.2004 The new medical sociology, W.W.Norton, New York. 

Willis, E. 1989. Medical dominance. Allen & Unwin. 

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