MSc Science and Health Communication

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Health Communication

Unit code HSTM60032
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 Centre for History of Science, Technology & Medicine (L5)
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module will help students understand health communication as a field that bridges science communication and health promotion.  Through the lectures, group and individual activities, seminars, and reading, students taking this module will explore the theories supporting health communication practice as well as that practice itself.  Pivotal to this learning experience are interactions with health communication professionals from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, ranging from social science and the arts to health promotion and social marketing.  The module will also help students consider the broader social and political contexts that influence health communication, as well as controversial questions in the field.
The module is taught through a series of three day-school sessions, each focused on a particular topic and each combining lecture, q&a sessions, group discussion, and small-group activities. Typical session themes would be the following:
  • Audiences, media, and behaviour
  • Interventions, campaigns, and events, from planning to evaluation
  • Special topics: Risk communication; Arts in Health



The unit aims to:
  • introduce central theories, methods, practices, and controversies in health communication;
  • establish an understanding of the relationship between theory and practice in health communication;
  • introduce the various social scientific disciplines and professional fields involved in health communication;
  • expose students to key debates about media use, audience understanding, and evaluation in health communication;
  • enhance students’ understanding of health-related numeracy, such as statistics and risk, as well as their ability to communicate these to varied audiences; and
  • encourage critical reflection on the structure, assumptions, implications, and unintended outcomes of health communication interventions

Teaching and learning methods

This module involves three day-long sessions, each organised around a general set of issues and involving multiple forms of engagement with the materials and issues to be covered.  Before the sessions, students will do preparatory reading and activities involving a small amount of independent research.  Each session will begin with a short lecture by the course tutor providing orienting background to the day’s topic. This will be followed by a combination of activities: Q&A/discussion sessions with visiting health communication professionals from a variety of backgrounds; small-group activities involving planning, content creation, and critique of materials; larger-group discussion and feedback from tutors, peers, and visiting professionals; and collective reflection on the questions, issues, and topics covered over the day.  Course materials will be provided on Blackboard, and students will submit assessed work and receive individual feedback on via Blackboard as well. Students are encouraged to raise questions about the course in class or via email, and the group email list is sometimes used to continue general discussion on course themes.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate extensive knowledge of theories, methods, and issues in health communication.

Intellectual skills

  • Recognise and deploy as appropriate the theories and methodologies of health communication
  • Identify potentially fruitful topics for health communication, and select appropriate styles, genres and outlets for communicating them
  • Explore the rationale for and potential outcomes of proposed materials, interventions, and programmes

Practical skills

  • Plan, schedule, cost and evaluate a health communication material, intervention, or event
  • Write/design for genre, audience, and medium, and to time
  • Seek out, organise and manage research materials, sites and subjects
  • Conduct surveys and interviews

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Work independently when appropriate
  • Work effectively in a team, leading or following when appropriate, and contributing and listening.
  • Communicate with a range of professionals and members of the public at all levels
  • Planning, organisation, and evaluation of events and interventions

Assessment methods

Essay critically analysing a health campaign or a health promotion event, or Essay critically analysing a broader controversial topic in health communication.  (50%)

A plan for a campaign, communication event, or intervention, along with sample written material for distirbution / broadcast (50%)

Feedback methods

Formative assessment offered on a draft; summative assessment to consist of written comments on Blackboard and, if appropriate, discussion with the course tutor.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 21
Independent study hours
Independent study 129

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Elizabeth Toon Unit coordinator

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