MSc International Disaster Management

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Vital Mobilities: Delivering Healthcare in a Changing Climate

Course unit fact file
Unit code HCRI61302
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Humanitarian Conflict Response Institute
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Healthcare relies upon the circulation of goods, people, and information. What happens when such circulations are disrupted by climate change? Focusing on healthcare, this research-led course offers an interdisciplinary entry point to understanding climate change impacts. We will explore the cascading global consequences of severe weather on vital mobilities, that is, movements of goods, people, and information that impact life chances. There is a pressing need to understand the impacts of climate change on healthcare and emergency services. Climate change poses risks to human health, hospitals, and health services. Especially significant are the acquisition of medical supplies during extreme weather events. Drawing on concepts of vital mobilities, infrastructure disruption, and mobility justice, students will address a critical gap in social scientific knowledge about global medical supply chains and their vulnerability to climate change, theorising vital mobilities and identifying adaptation measures.



  • Understand the complexity of healthcare delivery and climate change impacts, with a focus on movements of goods, people, and information
  • Understand the complex and extensive journeys of medical supplies from point of manufacture to point of care
  • Understand priorities, innovations, trends, and tensions at play in climate change response and healthcare provision
  • Understand what interventions and adaptations are necessary, possible, and appropriate
  • Understand the concepts of vital mobilities, infrastructure disruption, and mobility justice, including definition and applications
  • Gain exposure to a range of methods used in researching climate change impacts, mitigation, and adaptation
  • Understand how healthcare provision and its vulnerabilities can be understood and represented
  • Develop research, analysis, and communication skills based on academic and non-academic sources as demonstrated through three assessments

Knowledge and understanding

  • Learn theories and concepts related to climate change, healthcare, and mobility, including definition and application, namely: vital mobilities, infrastructure disruption, and mobility justice
  • Develop a critical understanding of the (im)mobilities of people, goods, and information exacerbated by climate change
  • Develop understanding of different disasters (e.g. slow versus fast onset, high versus low profile), and the representation of their impacts
  • Develop and assess strategies for increasing healthcare access in the context of disruption

Intellectual skills

  • Critically interrogate academic and non-academic sources on climate change, healthcare, and mobility
  • Understand and apply key theoretical concepts including vital mobilities, infrastructure disruption, and mobility justice
  • Understand the role of climate change as exacerbating pre-exiting threats and vulnerabilities

Develop, articulate, and sustain logical, structured and reasoned arguments in both written, oral, and visual contexts

Practical skills

  • Understand the many facets of climate change, healthcare, and mobility and use this to develop and assess appropriate humanitarian interventions in future crises
  • Develop a creative project to inform the general public of links between climate change, healthcare, and mobility
  • Write a critical essay demonstrating research skills
  • Present essay as a work in progress, demonstrating oral communication skills and reflexivity in the research process

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop a creative project to communicate academic knowledge to a wider audience
  • Develop specialist knowledge in the areas of climate change and healthcare applicable to future careers
  • Develop public speaking skills
  • Develop sensitivity for the complex issues facing individuals and communities confronted by climate change-related disruption


Employability skills

¿ Information Retrieval ¿ Interdisciplinary Thinking ¿ Knowledge Translation ¿ Research Design ¿ Teamwork ¿ Time Management ¿ Self-Guided Learning

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written assignment (inc essay) 70%
Creative Project Summative 30%
Essay Summative 70%
Presentation of Research in Progress (Essay) Oral Presentation of 3-5 minutes N/a

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative and Summative

Written feedback

On all summative assessments

Oral feedback

On in-class contributions/discussions

Additional feedback as required in office hours

Formative and summative

Recommended reading


Adey, P. 2016. Emergency mobilities. Mobilities 11(1): 32-48.

Collier, S. and A. Lakoff. 2014. Vital Systems Security: Reflexive Biopolitics and the Government of Emergency. Theory Culture & Society. 32(2): 19-51.

Graham, S. (Ed.) 2010. Disrupted Cities: When Infrastructure Fails. New York: Routledge.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change. 2014. Human health: impacts, adaptation, and co-benefits. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Redfield, P. 2016. Doctors Without Borders and the Global Emergency. Vital Signs: Medical Anthropology in the 21st Century, L. Manderson, A. Hardon and E. Cartwright, eds. NY: Routledge, 359-363.

Redfield, P. 2014. Medical Vulnerability, or Where There Is No Kit. Limn. 5.

Sheller, M. 2019. Mobility Justice: The Politics of Movement in an Age of Extremes. London: Verso.

Sodero, S. and R. Rackham. 2020. Vital Mobilities. Chapter In: Handbook on Methods and Applications for Mobilities Research. Edward Elgar

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Stephanie Sodero Unit coordinator

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