MEDFL5185 – Critical perspectives on health and disease

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Most researchers in the medical and health sciences focus on health and disease, either directly or indirectly. But what do these basic concepts mean and what do they entail?  Arguing that there is hardly a single answer to these questions, this course explores a variety of theories and perspectives on health, disease, sickness, and suffering. Specifically, the course will critically examine the various ways in which human health and disease is understood and engaged with in medicine and health sciences. By applying perspectives from philosophy, history, sociology, and anthropology the course aims to make you able to view medical and health research in a broader perspective, to see your research questions in new light, and to add to your abilities to interpret and understand data.

The course will investigate concepts, theories, and models of health and disease. In particular it will scrutinize various perspectives, knowledge systems, classification systems, and metaphors. The course will also investigate health management and governance, and analyze the relationship between power, interests, and gender in health and disease.

The course will use a combination of lectures, group work, video, and reflection notes in order to engage the participants in active reflection over basic concepts in health related research. It will actively use participants own research projects as examples.

Learning outcome

This course will give you knowledge about

  • various conceptions, definitions and explanations of health and disease
  • historical perspectives on health and disease
  • power and knowledge related to health and disease
  • issues of equity and justice related to health and disease
  • critical perspectives on health governance
  • gendered perspectives on health and disease
  • minority perspectives on health and disease
  • critical perspectives on diagnoses and diagnostic systems
  • critical perspectives on evidence and clinical guidelines related to health and disease
  • anthropological and sociological perspectives on the body, health, and sickness

This course will give you skills to

  • identify and apply a range of perspectives in reflection on health and disease (and on basic concepts more generally)
  • consider own and others’ research questions and research undertakings in the light of critical theories
  • draw on critical perspectives when analysing and iterpreting data

General competence
This course will give you knowledge and skills that are helpful in

  • exercising theoretical reflexivity
  • planning research and analysing data
  • maintaining a critical attitude to established conceptions and paradigms in the life sciences and in health care


The course is restricted to students at the Medical Student Research Programme at the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Dentistry, UiO.

Students apply in StudentWeb.

Enrollment to this course is automatically registered in StudentWeb. Applicants will be notified immediately if their application to the course is granted.

The courses MEDFL5185 and MF9185 have common admission.

Overlapping courses

5 credits overlap with MF9185 – Critical perspectives on health and disease


The course entails a mix of lectures, discussions, group work, and presentation of reflection notes.


Take-home course exam: write an essay that discusses your own research in the light of the perspectives discussed in the course. The essay should be between 7 and 10 pages and be submitted within 3 weeks of the end of the course. Use Times New Roman font size 12, line spacing 1.5).

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The exam paper is in English, but it is optional for the candidate to answer the exam in Norwegian or English

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2020

24.8. - 28.8.

Application period

1.6. - 10.8.2020

Course registration in


Automatic reply in StudentWeb



Autumn 2020

Teaching language