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Course content

MSc Health and Society Specialisation

If you are interested in solving societally relevant, complex health issues, then Wageningen is the place to be! In the specialisation Health and Society students become context-sensitive experts in the domains of science and health promotion. Health and Society studies the social and behavioural aspects of health and health promotion, but also other factors that affects health, for instance the organization of the food system and the interaction between individuals and the physical environment.

Programme summary

Health is a resource that enables people to lead an individually, socially and economically productive life. For many centuries, the care for individual and population health has been the domain of medical sciences. However, it is widely acknowledged that contemporary health problems are complex and cannot be solved by simply extending existing health services. Chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes are important contributors to the burden of disease; as are communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmittable diseases.

There is no single cause to such health problems. Biological factors aside, lifestyle and the social and physical environment are major contributors in both a positive and negative way. Many diseases are related to the way in which people behave and take care of their own health, for example, substance abuse (smoking, alcohol, drugs), nutrition, physical exercise, and sexual behaviour. Lifestyles are often rooted in the social environment of family and friends, the neighbourhood, and the school and working environment. Aspects of the physical environment also affect individual and population health including housing conditions, environmental pollution, the availability of green space, and the availability and accessibility of health services. Moreover, societal changes, such as demography (e.g. aging populations, single parent families), consumption patterns, communication technology developments, globalisation and commercialisation influence the health status of individuals and populations.

Since health is influenced by such a diversity of interconnected factors, the development of cross border public health policies is essential. Within the health care system, organisations and professionals have to increasingly work together in the provision of care, prevention and health promotion. The set-up of the programme reflects its focus on societal issues in the domain of health, health promotion and health care systems. The programme covers a niche in the Netherlands by primarily taking a sociological approach to this domain, centralising the link between health and human relationships. Here, human relationships are interaction patterns and dependencies both differing in nature, scope and intensity. In conjunction with this sociological approach, anthropological and social psychological approaches are key to the social scientific analysis of health within the program.

The study programme takes a comparative perspective with respect to the empowerment of individuals, communities and populations. In other words, to what degree do people have the (financial) means to arrange their lives and are they able to use facilities for health protection and health improvement. This way, emphasis is on the societal embedding of health and activities of health promotion in relation to social processes, structures and institutions. Together with sociology, the programme combines the domains communication science and health promotion but also includes perspectives from economics, management and public policy.


The Health and Society programme is already a specialisation. However, depending on education background and personal interests, the programme schedule may vary.

Your future career

The Health and Society study domain is becoming more and more relevant as a consequence of changing patterns in health problems and the factors influencing health. Policymakers are becoming more aware of the impact of health policy; and recent national and international policy documents have emphasised the importance of health promotion. The improvement and sustainability of acceptable levels of health remains a major challenge. This specialisation prepares you for careers as researchers, health promoters, health policy advisors or managers of health-oriented organisations.

Student Sofia Sutherland Borja.
Sofia comes from Chile where she finished her BSc in Nutrition and Dietetics. In her MSc internship at the Standing Committee on Nutrition at the United Nations in Geneva, she worked on policies related to Public Health Nutrition. “For me, this has been a great opportunity to experience at first-hand how nutrition promotion policies are developed, and also meet influential people in the field I’m passionate about. Health and Society was the perfect complement to my background in Nutrition and Dietetics, because I can now approach nutrition problems from both a medical and social perspective.”

Related programmes:
MSc Management, Economics and Consumer Studies
MSc International Development Studies
MSc Applied Communication Science
MSc Development and Rural Innovation

Visit the MSc Health and Society (specialisation) page on the Wageningen University & Research website for more details!






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