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  • University of the West of Scotland

Tackling Inequalities Through Health and Social Care Design

This course will explore what inequalities are and how they can be reduced through health and social care.

3,122 enrolled on this course

A mother holds her daughter while a doctor checks the child with a stethoscope
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

This course explore the ways that health and social care service design can lead to, but also address, inequalities. Inequalities are caused by very similar factors everywhere, they just look a little different, depending on the setting.

We are using Scotland as a case study to allow us to engage in a manageable discussion of the issues. Scotland is a small but varied country, with densely populated cities and almost uninhabitable mountain ranges. There is wealth and there is poverty. It is a great example of country that faces its challenges head on, and aspires to eliminate inequality.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 16 seconds SPEAKER 1: It is a much quoted fact that the gap between the haves and the have-nots is expanding. We’ve all heard that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. But very little has been said about how the inequalities can be addressed in our societies. Let’s take Scotland as an example. Scotland is a small country, but one that has an enormous breadth of different environments. From densely packed cities to sprawling rural areas, from barely inhabited mountain areas, to isolated islands with small communities. The distribution of population in Scotland is extreme to say the least.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds You realise how access can affect health inequalities, and how the environment can be of consequence, and that the demands on hospital services will vary widely. In Fife, you’ll find the most expensive street in the country overlooking the famous St. Andrews old course, where the average house price is 2.2 million pounds. But just 20 miles away are areas that are in the 20% most deprived in the country. Poverty and deprivation influence health outcomes. The three most common causes of death here are cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Whether you survive one of these three illnesses has a lot to do with where you live.

Skip to 1 minute and 35 seconds A person from greater Glasgow and Clyde is nearly twice as likely to develop lung cancer, for example as someone from Grampian, and once they have developed the illness, will be nearly twice as likely to die from it as a patient from the Borders. The percentage of adults who smoke is 11% in the least deprived areas, versus 40% in the most deprived areas along with eight times as many hospital admissions for alcohol-related problems. Often the blame is put at the door of poverty, but this does not illustrate the whole narrative at play here. There are multiple complex factors that occur in Scotland, and where and how people live.

Skip to 2 minutes and 14 seconds And, at a wider scale, this is the same for all countries in the world. In this free online course we will consider the causes of health inequalities, and we’ll explore projects aimed at addressing these national, regional, and local levels.

What topics will you cover?

  • Causes and consequences of inequality
  • Reducing inequalities through health promotion for children and families
  • Regional approaches to inequality in vulnerable populations
  • Collaborative approaches to reducing poverty-related inequality

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe what is meant by health and social inequalities
  • Discuss the factors that lead to inequalities in their broadest sense
  • Explore the ways in which equity can be achieved through targeted improvement approaches
  • Apply learning from the examples discussed, in order to reduce inequalities, regardless of context

Who is the course for?

The course is aimed at those working in health and social care who are interested in reducing inequalities and addressing inequity in their own context. While the course is designed to give professionals the practical tools needed to deliver more equitable outcomes, it is also suitable for anyone who is interested in health inequalities wherever they might be.

Who will you learn with?

I am a midwife of 20 years and am a Senior Lecturer at the University of Dundee, responsible for internationalisation in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. I am a lead educator with the SISSC

Who developed the course?

University of Dundee

The University of Dundee is one of the world’s Top 200 universities and was named Scottish University of the Year for both 2016 and 2017. Dundee offers one of the UK’s best student experiences.


The Scottish Improvement Science Collaborating Centre (SISCC) brings together researchers, NHS and social care staff, policy makers, educators, and the third sector from across Scotland.

University of the West of Scotland

University of the West of Scotland is one of the country’s largest modern universities, and aims to have a transformational influence on the economic, social and cultural development of the region.

Endorsers and supporters

supported by

The Health Foundation

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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