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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Anthropology

ANTH48915: Advanced Studies in the Evolutionary Medicine of Maternal and Infant Health

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2021/22


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To expose students to the perspective of evolutionary medicine as it relates to maternal and infant health
  • To encourage the critical appraisal of western biomedicine in the light of evolutionary theory as related to pregnancy, birth, early life and parenting issues.


  • Evolutionary medicine takes the view that many contemporary health issues are related to an incompatibility between the lifestyles and environments in which humans currently live and the conditions under which human biology evolved.
  • This module explores the ways in which questions about reproductive and infant health and disease can be reframed in consideration of an evolutionary perspective and new suggestions about treatment can be made.
  • Topics that may be covered include maternal health (e.g. pregnancy, child-birth, post-natal depression, lactation, maternal depletion) and infant health (e.g. thermoregulation, crying, SIDS, sleep, feeding and weaning).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Demonstrate advanced levels of current knowledge and intensive understanding in the application of evolutionary perspectives to a variety of contemporary maternal and infant health issues.
  • Deploy analytical skills specific to health issues informed by an evolutionary perspective.
  • Be competent in accessing and assimilating specialised research literature of an advanced nature.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Articulate how applying an evolutionary lens to maternal and infant health informs current health care practices and interventions
  • Be able to evaluate evolutionary explanations of maternal and infant health issues and be able to articulate how these may be tested.
Key Skills:
  • Preparation and effective communication of research methods, data, interpretation and arguments in written form.
  • Ability to translate academic knowledge into public interventions

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures will provide students with an outline of key knowledge and debates in the topic area, discuss the literature that students should explore, and provide relevant examples and cases studies.
  • Seminars will allow students to discuss required reading, to analyse case studies in greater depth, and to prepare students for their summative assignment. Practical components will provide students with hands-on experience developing a health intervention.
  • Student preparation and reading time will allow engagement with specific references in advance of seminars and general and particular reading related to the development of their health intervention (summative report).
  • Advanced discussion classes will allow students to develop their skills of critical thinking and evaluation, as well as how to synthesise and interrogate material at a level commensurate with postgraduate attainment.
  • Summative assessment will include a 2,500-word intervention proposal in which students will apply concepts and perspectives covered in the course to design, describe and evaluate an evolutionarily-informed health intervention relevant to this module. The summative critical reading log is an annotated bibliography in which the evidence and arguments presented in readings selected by the student and relevant to the development of their summative assessment are evaluated and critiqued. This along with the other summative component should show evidence of a higher level of engagement expected at postgraduate level.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture 1 Week 1 1 hour 1
Lectures 5 Weeks 2-4, 7-8 2 hours 10
Seminars 2 Weeks 5 & 9 2 hours 2
Advanced discussion class 1 1 hour 1
Preparation and Reading 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Intervention proposal 2500 words 80%
Critical reading log 1000 words 20%

Formative Assessment:

500-word intervention outline. Reading log sample.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University