Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Socio-Cultural Issues in Health and Nutrition

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Health, Physical Education and Consumer Studies

DESCRIPTION This study-unit begins by looking at the theory of food and culture and gives an overview of the social functions and symbolic meanings of foods and their implications on the micro and macro levels. The various cultural factors that influence the choice of foodstuffs, meal patterns and eating habits of different population groups are discussed.

The study-unit also describes the socio-historical background to traditional Maltese cuisine and explores the impact of technology, tourism and changing lifestyles on current food choices and eating practices of the Maltese population. Students are also introduced briefly to the characteristics of the traditional Mediterranean diet and a number of different ethnic cuisines.

The study-unit then continues by focusing on topical concerns regarding the food-health link. Students are exposed to various sources of information in order to familiarise themselves with the latest controversial research and ‘news’ in the fields of health and nutrition, as well as to evaluate the issues discussed so that they can effectively inform others in order to modify food-related behaviours and ultimately improve their quality of life.

Study-Unit Aims:

This unit aims at introducing students to a socio-ecological approach to food choices and behaviours, through tackling different relevant theories and historical, cultural and social factors. Students will reflect on aspects of the traditional Mediterranean diet and Maltese cuisine, and also become more familiar with the basics of other popular cuisines. They will also update their knowledge on topical health and nutrition issues and thus strengthen their arguments for evidenced-based knowledge and health promotion messages.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Describe the various factors involved in the discussion of nutrition and culture;
- Outline historical and socio-economic changes in the Maltese diet and cuisine;
- Compare and contrast the current Maltese diet and the traditional Mediterranean diet;
- Discuss the influence of technology and changing lifestyles on Maltese eating habits;
- Outline the social functions of food (religion, occasion, gifts etc.);
- Discuss the symbolic meanings of food as they relate to current attitudes in Malta;
- Explain the key features of a number of popular cuisines from around the world, with a focus on links to religious and ecological factors;
- Outline the current scientific knowledge in relation to a number of food and health-related topics.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Apply different strategies to assess the reliability of health and nutrition research reports appearing in the different media;
- Identify and access reliable websites for the latest information on nutrition and health concerns;
- Investigate local lay knowledge and attitudes regarding 'trendy' health and nutrition topics;
- Present health promoting messaging using evidence-based arguments.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Germov, J; Williams, L (eds) (2008) A sociology of food and nutrition : the social appetite. UK: Oxford UP.
- Ritzer, G. (2013). The McDonaldization of society. USA; Sage.
- Shepherd R. & Raats, M. (2010) The Psychology of Food Choice.

Supplementary Readings:

- Beardsworth A.& Keil T. (1997). Sociology on the Menu. London: Routledge.
- Cassar, C. (1994) Fenkata: An emblem of Maltese peasant resistance? Malta: Ministry for Youth and the Arts.
- Counihan, C. & Van Esterik, P. (Eds.). (2008). Food and culture: A reader. NY: Routledge.
- Farrugia, M. (2013) Food under siege : a historical sociology exploration into food and hunger during World War II and its effect on the Maltese population [digital dissertation] Unpublished M.Ed (Hons) dissertation, University of Malta.
- Mennell, S., Murcott, A., & van Otterloo, A.H. (1992). The sociology of food: Eating, diet, and culture. London: Sage.
- Parkinson-Large. (1995). A taste of history: The food of the Knights of Malta. Malta: PEG.
- Piscopo, S. (2004). Socio-Ecological Factors Influencing Food Choices And Behaviours Of Maltese Primary Schoolchildren. Ph.D. thesis, University Of Birmingham, UK.
- Vella, S. (2001). Healthy Maltese recipes: A resource for use in the Home Economics Curriculum. Unpublished B.Ed (Hons) dissertation, University of Malta.
- Willett, A.C., Sacks, F., Trichopoulou, A., Drescher, G., Ferro- Luzzi, A., Helsing, E. & Trichopoulos, D. (1995). Mediterranean diet pyramid: A cultural model for healthy eating. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61, 6 Suppl., pp 1402S-1406S.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Fieldwork, Independent Study & Seminar

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 50%
Presentation (20 Minutes) SEM2 No 50%

LECTURER/S Therese Borg Mifsud
Stefania Calleja
Sylvia Caruana
Christine Zammit

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2019/0, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.