Comparative Studies in Health

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This Course Guide has been taken from the most recent presentation of the course. It would be useful for reference purposes but please note that there may be updates for the following presentation.


Comparative Studies in Health

NURS N301 Comparative Studies in Health is a higher-level course that forms part of the Bachelor of Nursing degree. This course spans one year and is designed primarily for registered nurses.

Before you begin working on the content of the course, you need to understand how the course functions and how the various parts of it fit together. You will find the answers to these questions in this Course Guide. You may be tempted to stop reading in order to get started with your course work. Please don't. It is important that you understand how the system works. Many part-time students are unsuccessful, not because they cannot do the work but because they do not understand how to do it. You will be able to manage your study with confidence if you read this Course Guide thoroughly now, and refer to it when you review your plan of study.

The Course Guide tells you briefly what the course is about and how you can work your way through the materials. It suggests the amount of time you are likely to spend in order to complete the course successfully. It also gives you guidance on your assignments. There are three required assignments in this course: two for Continuous Assessment (CAA 1 & 2) and one for the Final Examination (FEA). For detailed information on the assignments, see the Assignment Guide. There are also twenty hours of tutorials linked to the course. You are strongly recommended to attend all of them.

The overall aim of Comparative Studies in Health is to increase your awareness of the ways, and the extent to which, both your clients' and your own health beliefs, health practices and health statuses are affected by society.

Specifically, NURS N301 Comparative Studies in Health aims to

  1. Enable you to develop a critical understanding of:
    • the basic concepts and theoretical orientations in medical anthropology and medical sociology;
    • the impact of culture on health beliefs and help-seeking behaviours;
    • the effects of society on the health conditions of its population;
    • the operation of the health-care system within the wider social structure and the global system; and
    • the theories and foundations of ethical decision-making in the context of health care.
  2. Develop your capacity for applying the above knowledge in analysing clinical phenomena.

Upon completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • Analyse the ways in which culture affects people's health beliefs and the role of culture in understanding health, disease and illness.
  • Summarize the components of models of health beliefs and health-seeking behaviours.
  • Evaluate the strengths and limitations of social epidemiology.
  • Explain how health is affected by the social structure and the global system.
  • Characterize the relationships between practitioner, nurse and client.
  • Compare the underlying principles of different ethical theories, and their strengths and limitations as applied in clinical encounters.
  • Examine the ethical principles involved in rationing health care.
  • Apply the knowledge acquired in this course to the local context of health service provision.

NURS N301 Comparative Studies in Health will provide you with a basis for understanding issues in medical anthropology, medical sociology and ethics as they relate in nursing. As the title of the course indicates, the focus of the course is on the comparison of the health beliefs and health care systems of different societies. This course will help you to become more sensitive to how your health beliefs and health practices are affected by your own culture and social structure, as well as the effect of these on your ethical choices. The focus of this course is on Chinese and Western societies as it is impossible to cover the entire spectrum of cultures and practices in just 10 units. Practical implications in the local context are also emphasised.

The following table provides an overview of the course. It suggests the amount of time you should allow for completing each unit. These are nevertheless guidelines only. The time needed to study the units and work on the self-tests and assignments will vary from learner to learner. You need to carefully plan your own work and study schedules according to your own needs. The estimated time, on average, that you need to spend on this course is 10 hours per week including the time for reading the study units and assigned readings, completing self-tests and CAAs, attending the tutorials and preparing for your final examination assignment.


1Cultural diversity in health beliefs and behaviours3 
2Social meanings of health and illness3 
3Health beliefs and health-seeking behaviours3CAA 1
4Clinical and social epidemiology3 
5Political economy of health I — states of health3 
6Political economy of health II — the tripartite game3 
7Introduction to ethics in the context of health3 
8Ethical theories and the principles of autonomy, beneficence and maleficence3CAA 2
9Principle of justice and ethics in contemporary nursing3 
10From comparative health studies to contextualized nursing3 

In addition to this Course Guide you should have received the study units and readings. Please ensure that you have all these materials available. If you are missing any of these materials, you should contact HKMU immediately.


Study units

There are ten study units in Comparative Studies in Health. Each study unit consists of 3 to 4 weeks' work and includes directions for study, readings with commentaries and summaries of key issues and ideas. The units direct you to work on assignments related to the required readings and provide self-tests, where appropriate. In general, these self-tests help you to gauge your progress and reinforce your understanding of the materials.

The study units are as follows:

Unit 1 Cultural diversity in health beliefs and behaviours

Unit 2 Social meanings of health and illness

Unit 3 Health beliefs and health-seeking behaviours

Unit 4 Clinical and social epidemiology

Unit 5 Political economy of health I — states of health

Unit 6 Political economy of health II — the tripartite game

Unit 7 Introduction to ethics in the context of health

Unit 8 Ethical theories and the principles of autonomy, beneficence and maleficence

Unit 9 Principle of justice, feminist ethics and the practice of nursing

Unit 10 From comparative health studies to contextualized nursing

These lecture-in-print study units represent your personal lectures. This is one of the great advantages of the part-time mode of learning. You can read and work through these specially designed study materials at your own pace, anywhere and anytime. Think of it as attending lectures while reading the materials. Just as a lecturer might set you some readings to do, the study units will tell you when to read your readings. Similarly a lecturer might give you an in-class activity or exercise, your study unit will provide exercises for you to do at appropriate learning points.

Each of the study units follows a common format:

  • An Overview of the unit.
  • An Introduction to the subject matter of the unit and how a particular unit is integrated with the other units and the course as a whole.
  • A guide to the required Readings. These are from published textbooks or journal articles.
  • Activities. Activities in the units are important parts of the materials. There could be reflective questions, exercises or hands-on activities. You should do each activity as you come to it in the study unit.
  • Self-tests. The self-tests are interspersed throughout the unit and answers are given at the end. Doing these tests will help you to prepare for assignments.
  • References. These are books and articles that have been used in the preparation of the unit. You do not have to read them but you may find them useful if you want to learn more about a particular topic. You will find them in HKMU library.

The course is structured so that each unit builds upon previous knowledge. This set of materials allows at least five different ways to help you learn:

  1. Reading the study unit.
  2. Reading the assigned readings.
  3. Completing the activities and self-tests throughout the units. These require you to think, observe or undertake some activity that is designed to help you apply the knowledge you have gained.
  4. Completing the assignments.
  5. Attending the tutorials and interacting with other learners.


There is no textbook in this course, but there are a number of assigned readings instead. These are supplied in your course materials package.

You may be instructed in the study units to read articles or other supplementary materials. These will be available online or provided as hard copies at the backs of the study units.


E-Library E-Reserve readings

You may be instructed to read articles in the E-Library E-Reserve. To read these items, go to the University's E-Library and click on 'E-Reserve'. Log in, click 'Accept/Agree' on the Copyright Restrictions page, fill in the 'Course Code' box, and click 'Search'.


Assignment Guide

The Assignment Guide is available on the OLE. It contains the details of the two required assignments of the Continuous Assessment (CAAs) for this course and the instructions for assignment submission. The guidelines for the Final Examination Assignment (FEA) will be released on the OLE by the Course Coordinator in the second semester.


Presentation Schedule

The Presentation Schedule is available on the OLE. Remember, you are required to submit all your assignments via the OLE by the due dates. You should guard against falling behind in your work.

You should pay particular attention to this Course Guide and to all instructions in the study units.


Study units

You must read each study unit carefully because it guides your learning. The unit tells you what to do and how to approach the assignment relating to the unit. If you do not read the study unit carefully, you may miss important information. You must read the study units and the readings. They are not alternatives.



There are a number of activities interspersed throughout each of the study units. They could be reflective questions, exercises or hands-on activities. You should not skip these learning activities as they can help you to grasp the important concepts and ideas in the study unit.



In each study unit, you will find some self-tests. These are designed to help you remember what you have learned and to prepare you for working on the assignments.


Checking your understanding

Some of the concepts in this course will be new to you and you may have to make a particular effort to understand them. You may also find some of the language difficult. Keep a note of your problems and raise them with your tutor as soon as possible. Be specific about the problem so that your tutor can help you more easily.

The course is designed to assist you to move through the required readings to the assignments and examination. You are expected to apply information and techniques gathered during the course in tackling the assignments. The assignments must be submitted to your tutor for formal assessment in accordance with the deadlines stated in the Assignment Guide.


Continuous assessment

There are two assignments for the Continuous Assessment: two essays of about 2000 words each (CAA 1 & 2). They are designed to facilitate your learning in applying the knowledge and analytic skills gained in the course. Both assignment should be completed on time as they carry equal weighting (25%) for your OCAS (that is, 50% of the total course mark).

The assignment questions are contained in the Assignment Guide and will be uploaded to the OLE. You must submit all assignments to your tutor for marking on or before the deadline. You will be able to complete the assignments using the information and materials contained in your study units and readings. However, it is preferable, in all degree-level education, to demonstrate that you have read and researched more widely than the required minimum. Using other references will give you a broader perspective and may provide a deeper understanding of the subject.


Final examination

The final examination is represented by an extended assignment (the FEA) which carries 50% of your course mark (OES).

Questions in this Final Examination Assignment will cover all the core knowledge in the ten units. It is, therefore, very important for you to review the self-tests in all the units before preparing for this final assignment. It will definitely be helpful, too, for you to attend to the comments you receive from your tutor on your CAAs while writing the FEA.

The details of the Final Examination Assignment will be announced on OLE in the second semester.

The following is a recommended strategy for working through the course. If you encounter (and I am sure you will!) any hiccup or issue in your learning, you are strongly advised to reach your tutor for tips or help. It is one of their roles in facilitating your learning. But for them to fulfill this role, two-way communication must be established. Therefore don't hesitate to ask for their advice (and ask them earlier rather than later!).

  1. Read this Course Guide thoroughly.
  2. Prepare your own study schedule and do your best to stick to it. The major reason that students fail is that they lag behind in their course work. If you get into difficulties with your study schedule, please let your tutor know before it is too late for help.
  3. Turn to Unit 1 and read the introduction, and then work through the unit, including the activities, assigned readings and self-tests. The content of the unit itself has been arranged to provide a sequence for you to follow.
  4. When the unit directs you, turn to the Assignment File and complete the required assignment. Keep in mind that you will learn a lot by doing the assignments carefully. They have been designed to help you pass the exam. Submit all assignments no later than the due date.
  5. If you feel unsure about any of the topics in the unit, review the study material or consult your tutor.
  6. While you wait for the return of your assignment, begin work on the next unit. Proceed unit by unit throughout the course and try to pace your study so that you keep yourself on schedule.
  7. When the assignment is returned, pay particular attention to your tutor's comments, both on the assignment submission page and also as embedded inside the body of essays. Reach out to your tutor as soon as possible if you have any questions or problems regarding their comments and/or marking.
  8. After completing the last unit, review your learning throughout the course and prepare yourself for the Final Examination Assignment.

There are twenty hours of tutorials designed to assist your learning. These are in the form of ten two-hour sessions. You are strongly recommended to attend all of them. You will be notified of the dates, times and location of these tutorials, together with the name and phone number of your tutor, as soon as you are allocated a tutorial group.

Your tutor marks and comments on your assignments, keeps a close watch on your progress and on any difficulties you might encounter, and provides assistance to you during the course. You must upload your assignments to your tutor before the due dates. They will be marked and returned to you at appropriate times.

Do not hesitate to contact your tutor by telephone if you need help. The following might be circumstances in which you would find help necessary. Contact your tutor if:

  • you do not understand any part of the study units or the assigned readings;
  • you have difficulty with the self-tests;
  • you have a question or problem with assignments, with your tutor's comments or with the grading of an assignment.

NURS N301 Comparative Studies in Health is designed to help you build a firm foundation in the areas of medical anthropology, medical sociology and ethical theories. It focusses on the health beliefs, health state, health care systems and ethical concerns in different societies. The course developers have attempted to provide you with some unfamiliar perspectives for examining health phenomena.

Comparative Studies in Health challenges your ability to think analytically. We will bring in issues that you come across almost every day in your working life for discussion. It is this relevance that we believe makes the subject matter interesting and stimulating. We hope you will enjoy the learning activities and wish you the very best in the meaningful work that you are about to undertake.

The course was originally developed by Cheng Yeung-Hung, Lecturer, Department of Community Medicine and Unit for Behavioral Sciences, University of Hong Kong; Shae Wan-Chaw, Lecturer, Department of Applied Social Studies, Hong Kong Polytechnic; and Thomas Wong Kwok-Shing, Department of Health Sciences, Hong Kong Polytechnic in 1993–5.

The major revision was taken up by Dr Juliana Hong. Juliana Hong is a registered nurse. She had worked in the Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service for 33 years and in the past 17 years of her service, she worked in the capacity of a Department Operations Manager. Academically, she has obtained a Doctor of Health Science, Master in Management in Health Care and Bachelor (Hons) of Healthcare Studies (Nursing). Furthermore, she also holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK.

Coming soon