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Last updated:

April 8, 2022


6 months

This course includes:

6 months

Badge on Completion

Certificate of completion

6 months


This course, Health is everywhere: Unravelling the mystery of health, considers two ideas: that health is an ever-present factor in our lives, and that health is something difficult to define.


The course begins by exploring the notion implied in the title that health pervades all parts of our public and private lives. It will become clear that although health is everywhere, it takes different forms and has different meanings for different people and in different contexts. We all have our own versions of health and you will be able to check yours against a range of other views, including the views of the team who were responsible for producing this course. We think this is important because, as you will increasingly become aware as you work through these materials, the way we view health affects the way we work for health, and in our case the way we write about it. The subject of accounting for health has been widely researched in the last 25 years. This course explores the literature which looks at differences between individuals and groups of individuals on the basis of gender, age, class, and ethnic origin. The significance of ‘lay’ and ‘professional’ accounts of health has exercised academics and policymakers alike, and so the relationship between laypeople and professionals, and the implications this may have for practice, will be addressed in the course. Having explored a rich and diverse range of accounts of health, we will move on to try to set some boundaries around the concept of health and explore its relationship to quality of life, before engaging with the interrelatedness of health, illness, and disease. In doing this we will focus on the work of Aaron Antonovsky, who spent his working life trying to unravel the mystery of health. Indeed, it was he who coined the phrase ‘unraveling the mystery of health’ (1987). How can we say that health is everywhere if it is so mysterious? How do we recognize health if it so difficult to define? There are no easy answers to these questions! In this course, we explore this paradox, not just because it is a fascinating dilemma but because understanding health in all its multifaceted complexity is a prerequisite to working for health in imaginative, creative and useful ways, in both our private and our public lives.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:
  • Assess the degree to which health pervades all aspects of contemporary life
  • Identify views on what health means personally
  • Review a range of meanings that health has for individuals and groups of individuals
  • Discuss the social and cultural significance of this range of meanings
  • Critically analyze the distinction between ‘lay’ and professional perspectives on health.

Course Curriculum

    • Introduction 01:00:00
    • Health and the media 00:30:00
    • Views on health 00:50:00
    • Accounting for health 00:40:00
    • Health and low income 00:20:00
    • Health and the middle class 00:30:00
    • Health and ethnicity 00:15:00
    • Health and children 00:05:00
    • People’s Views on Health 00:10:00
    • Introduction 00:15:00
    • People knowledge 00:05:00
    • Understanding lay knowledge 00:10:00
    • Quality of life 00:10:00
    • Introduction 00:10:00
    • Concepts of Illness 00:10:00
    • Responsibility for health and illness 00:10:00
    • Moving to a positive paradigm 00:20:00
    • Conclusion 00:10:00

About the instructor

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Open University UK