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Unit information: Contemporary Debates in Lifestyle Behaviours and Public Health in 2015/16

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Unit name Contemporary Debates in Lifestyle Behaviours and Public Health
Unit code SPOLM0018
Credit points 15
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Haase
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

Facilitating a change in health behaviours across the life span is a priority, particularly among those for whom clusters of poor lifestyle are common. It is becoming apparent that, in some cases, multidisciplinary research is not sufficient to address—in a comprehensive and effective way—challenging and complex issues within health and well-being research and/or application. Rather, interdisciplinary research is required to tackle these more complex and challenging issues. Interdisciplinary research does not merely result in new technical approaches, but rather new intellectual approaches (viz., new ways to conceptualize and think about a ‘real world’ challenges to health and well-being). Students will explore how the complexity of contemporary health and well-being research problems require researchers to move beyond the confines of their individual disciplines and work as part of interdisciplinary teams in which skills and disciplines are combined in a coordinated manner to stimulate new ways of addressing and tacking problems. Students will be exposed to the different stages of the interdisciplinary research process, ranging from an open-ended preliminary research phase through to how the research is carried out in practice. Examples of good and poor practice will be discussed and a wide range of topics discussed (e.g., why an interdisciplinary approach is needed, which disciplines should be involved, the personality and attributes required by researchers, involvement of end users/stakeholders, and challenges with contingency plans). Students will be presented with contemporary ‘real world’ problems and will be challenged to take an interdisciplinary approach. Via various teaching approaches (e.g., critical discussion and group debates, problem-based learning, case studies), students will work through problems adopting an interdisciplinary approach to develop constructive solutions. The unit will be team taught by colleagues from the Department for Health (Bath), Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences (Bristol), and Sport and Health Sciences (Exeter).

Unit aims:

To explore how theory, knowledge, concepts, methodology, and skills from distinct disciplines can be integrated in a co-ordinated manner to coherently address important issues, problems and challenges to health and well-being.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of the unit students should have:

  • a critical understanding of both the challenges to, and the constructive and innovative contributions of, interdisciplinary research to knowledge and practice.
  • a deepened interdisciplinary understanding of the links between social, biological and environmental factors and health behaviours, choices, and outcomes of individuals, groups, and societies.
  • an awareness of key competencies and processes needed by interdisciplinary researchers in planning, designing, implementing and evaluating interventions and strategies targeted at improving lifestyle-related health behaviours.
  • a critical understanding of the skills and processes required to translate interdisciplinary scientific research into practical strategies targeted at enhancing health and well-being.
  • a better understanding of the relevance and benefits to research and practice of engaging with a range of public health stakeholders.

Teaching Information

Lectures, group work, seminars, presentations.

Assessment Information

One coursework of 4,000 words on a topic agreed with the Unit Convenor

Reading and References

Books on Interdisciplinary Research:

  • Repko, A.F. (2011). Interdisciplinary Research. Process and Theory. 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
  • Kessel, F., Rosenfield P., Anderson, N. (2008). Interdisciplinary Research – Case Studies from Health and Social Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Peer-reviewed articles Focusing on Interdisciplinary Research:

  • Aboelela, S.W., Larson, E., Bakken, S. et al (2007). Defining interdisciplinary research: Conclusions from a critical review of the literature. Health Services Research 42:1, Part 1 (February), 329-346.
  • Gebbie, K.M., Meier, B.M., Bakken, S. et al (2008). Training for interdisciplinary health research. Journal of Allied Health 37:65-70.
  • Hall, J.G., Bainbridge, L., Buchan, A. et al (2006). A meeting of the minds: interdisciplinary research in the health sciences in Canada. CMAJ 175(7):763-771.
  • Heberlein, T.A. (1988). Improving interdisciplinary research: integrating the social and natural sciences. Society and Natural Resources 1:5-16.
  • O’Cathain, A., Murphy, E., and Nicholl J. (2008). Multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, or dysfunctional? Team working in mixed-methods research. Qualitative Health Research 18(11):1574-1585.