CCHU9019 Humanities
From Health to Well-being


Course Description

To examine health in its truest sense, one must explore beyond the limits of medicine to engage a much wider set of questions embracing social, cultural, political, economic, moral and spiritual aspects of human experience. The aim of this course is for students to gain greater insight into the multi-dimensional aspects of health and to develop a more holistic and humanistic appreciation of health in both a personal and societal context. The course will encourage students to look critically at various models of health, to understand the complexities of health-related behaviours and to appreciate the possible roles played by politico-social forces, cultural change and spiritual disorientation in shaping well-being. The humanistic aspects of health will be examined through an exploration of the winding journey from illness to healing, with illness often being the wake-up call for individuals to re-evaluate the way they approach life and thus inspire questions about self–awareness, self–actualization and spirituality.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain health as a multi-dimensional and dynamic concept, which necessarily integrates individual, societal, biomedical, spiritual, cultural and historical influences, and how this relates to health issues encountered in everyday life.
  2. Assess the inter-relatedness of health perceptions and practices across cultures.
  3. Discuss personal responsibilities towards achieving health in a rational way and how this contributes to the individual, community and global good.
  4. Critically evaluate the meaning of health through the analysis of qualitative and quantitative health information, literary and artistic works and personal introspection.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures / Seminars / Workshops 24
Tutorials 10
Reading / Self-study 24
Assessment: Essay writing 20
Assessment: Group presentation (incl preparation) 34
Assessment: Team-based learning activities 20
Total: 132

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Team-based learning 20
Writing assignments 35
Small group tutorial participation 25
Small group project 15
In-class participation 5

Required Reading

Excerpts from:

  • Albom, M. (2007). Tuesdays with Morrie. London: Little, Brown.
  • Bauby, J. -D. (2007). The diving-bell and the butterfly. Hopkinton, MA: Vintage Books.
  • Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes’ error: Emotion, reason, and the human brain. New York: Putnam.
  • Descartes and Substance Dualism. In Philosophy Online. From http://www.philosophyonline.co.uk/oldsite/pom/pom_substance_dualism.htm
  • Egnew, T. (2005). The meaning of healing: Transcending suffering. Annals of Family Medicine, 3(1), 255-262.
  • Fadiman, A. (1997). The spirit catches you and you fall down. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • Foucault, M. (1989). The birth of the clinic: An archaeology of medical perception. London: Routledge.
  • French, P., & Crabbe, M. (2010). Fat China: how expanding waistlines are changing a nation. London; New York: Anthem Press.
  • Gilman, S. L. (2008). Fat: A cultural history of obesity. Cambridge, UK: Polity.
  • Illich, I. (1994, Winter). Brave new biocracy: Health care from womb to tomb. New Perspectives Quarterly, 11(1). [Section on “Hygienic autonomy: A manifesto”]
  • Kluger, J. (2013, January 14). Polio and Politics. Time, 108 (1), 32-37.
  • Mehta, N. (2011, January to December). Mind-body dualism: A critique from a health perspective. Mens Sana Monographs, 9(1), 202-209.
  • Murray C. J., & Lopez, A. D. (2013). Measuring the global burden of disease. The New England Journal of Medicine, 369, 448-457.
  • National Institute of Mental Health & U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2013). Depression. Available online from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-easy-to-read/index.shtml
  • National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, U. S. Department of health and human services, & U. S. Department of state. (2007, March). Why population aging matters: A global perspective. Available online from https://www.nia.nih.gov/research/publication/why-population-aging-matters-global-perspective
  • Porter, R. (Ed.). (1997). Medicine: A history of healing. New York, NY: Barnes and Noble.
  • Southwell, G. (2008). A beginner’s guide to Descartes’s Meditations. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2008). The connection between art, healing and public health: A review of the current literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254-263.
  • Weiten, W., et al. (2011). Psychology applied to modern life: Adjustment in the 21st century (11th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning. [Chap. 1]
  • Young, C., & Koopsen, C. (2005). Spirituality, health and healing: An integrative approach. Thorofare, NJ: Slack Incorporated.

Recommended Reading

  • Bracken, P., & Thomas, P. (2002). Time to move beyond the mind-body split [Editorial]. British Medical Journal, 325, 1433-1434.
  • Doll, R., Peto, R., Boreham, J., & Sutherland, I. (2004). Mortality in relation to smoking: 50 years’ observation on male British doctors. British Medical Journal, 328, 7455, 1519.
  • Engel, G. L. (1977). The need for a new medical model: A challenge for biomedicine. Science, 196, 129-136.
  • Gilbert, D. (2006). Stumbling on happiness. New York: Vintage Books.
  • Myers, D. G. (2013). Psychology (10th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers. [Chap. 12]
  • Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice: Why more is less. New York: ECCO.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr J.Y. Chen
Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine
Tel: 2855 0753 / 2518 5657
Email: juliechen@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr J.Y. Chen
Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine
Tel: 2855 0753 / 2518 5657
Email: juliechen@hku.hk
Dr W.Y. Chin
Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine
Tel: 2518 5657
Email: chinwy@hku.hk