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PHDH901 Health, function and participation

Course description for academic year 2024/2025

Contents and structure

The course constitutes the common interconnecting component of the PhD study. The course shall provide insight in how differences in world views, philosophical underpinnings or professional bodies of knowledge approach and respond to contemporary societal challenges, longstanding health problems or social inequalities in health. In this course, health will be approached as an individual and collective resource, and as a social practice. Individual and public health is affected by global politics, conflicts, poverty, climate change, or migration, which subsequently affect local health and social services. Trauma and disability following warfare or migration, or health loss due to abuse or poverty, affects the individuals possibilities for functioning and social participation - and as such affect the society at large. Social and structural conditions affect health, activities and participation on a local and global level. The common interconnecting component is grounded in three of the World Health Organization’s initiatives; i) International Classification of Functioning, disability and health ICF (1980/2001), ii) The Ottawa charter on public health (1986) and iii) The Levelling up initiatives on Social inequalities in health (2006).

The course focuses on individual and societal challenges related to health and health promotion, as well as challenges in identifying knowledge gaps and implementing new promising practices. Changes in health policy and the organization of health and social services are discussed in light of changing conditions and requirements for how relationships between users / clients / patients and service providers should be established and carried through, and how encounters between them can be explained or explored. The students will acquire knowledge of cultural processes influence historic and contemporary understanding of health, function and participation in a life span perspective. Phenomenon as ageism, normalization and medicalization processes, stigmatization and non-oppressive practices, participation of children and young people, and juridification processes and prioritization of health services will be used as exemplars for facilitating critical appreciation of the course content and learning. Critical appreciation of function and participation includes focusing on participation as an opportunity and participation as a duty, and disability as a loss or identity. The course highlights analyses and discussions about the connections between co-production and implementation of knowledge in the health and social sector, and the how this may influence organizing of health and social services.

Learning Outcome

After completing the course, the student will have the following total learning outcome:

Knowledge: The student ...

  • has advanced knowledge of, and understanding of, various practical and theoretical approaches to health, function and participation at the individual, group/community, and societal levels
  • has in-depth insight into how health, function and participation are grounded in each person's unique physical, mental and socio-cultural context
  • has knowledge, theories and concepts for innovative thinking about how private and public service providers, service users, relatives and bereaved, NGOs and health services can participate in the development of sustainable health systems for the future
  • knows how human health, function and participation are based on human nature in interaction with other humans and social institutions.

Skills: The student ...

  • can place their own PhD project within the research traditions and theoretical contexts offered by the PhD programme
  • can critically appreciate and problematize established scientific traditions, knowledge and practices related to the focus area of the doctoral dissertation
  • can critically appreciate and compare and contrast the phenomena of health, function and participation
  • can handle complex issues related to ethical, theoretical and methodological issues related to his / her own research field

General competence: The student ...

  • has competence to contribute to the development of new knowledge, new theories, and new methods in health science on how institutionalized cultural understandings of health, function and participation are institutionalized, and how this has consequences at the individual, group and societal levels.
  • can identify and discuss ethical issues in health research
  • can plan their own research with ethical integrity
  • can assess the need for innovation related to health-related professional practice and service organisation

Entry requirements

  • Master's degree with 120 ECTS credits or equivalent in relevant academic fields, normally with the grade A or B
  • PhD candidate enrolled in a PhD programme at HVL or an external institution, or with a relevant PhD project in prepration
  • HVL employees on track for qualifying to senior lecturer positions

Number of participants: The course requires a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 20 participants. The number of PhD students should preferably comprise at least 50% of the total number of participants.

Teaching methods

Course tuition takes normally place during the beginning of the fall term, and is comprised of approximatly 6 weeks, including preparation for the course, 3-days retreat, writing, reviewing each other's papers, one-day seminar at Campus Bergen and exam.

The exam is an essay on health, function and participation in relation to the student's own PhD project. The students hand in their first draft before the retreat. During the retreat, students review and give feedback on each other's papers and receive group based oral supervision from teachers/academic staff. Students also receive written individual feedback on their paper before the exam.

Students are required to be present at both the retreat and the one-day seminar. They are required to give and receive peer-review and to take an active part in discussions during seminars and teaching.

Compulsory learning activities




A scientific paper in which the student discusses their own project in light of various understandings of health, function and participation. The essay has a maximum of 4500 words in accordance with to the learning-outcome description for the course. Details will be provided at the start of the course.

Grading Pass / fail.

If failing, a second exam date allows for an improved version of the essay to be handed in once.

Examination support material

All aids are allowed.

More about examination support material