School of Population Health

Pandemics, Power and Society (GENM0519)

image - Pandemics, Power and Society


Pandemics, and infectious disease outbreaks more generally, are a growing source of public concern and controversy. The media are continually accused of exaggerating concerns, and the actions of public health authorities are constantly publically scrutinised. What questions should the public be asking of public health responses to infectious disease, and what can public health authorities do to connect with the general public and gain their trust? This course will introduce you to social scientific research with relevance to the social and political aspects of infectious disease control. You will be introduced to some key social scientific concepts used to understand the challenges public health authorities face in trying to garner public trust; and you will be introduced to social scientific research that can inform responses to actual and potential pandemics.

Credit points

This is a six-unit general education course offered in an internal (weekly lecture) mode.

Mode of study

Internal (Face-to-Face) classes on campus.

Course aim

On completion of this subject, students will be able to: 

  • describe some of the broad social and political challenges public health faces in engaging publics with infectious disease outbreaks and pandemic control;
  • critically engage with social scientific research into the social and political aspects of responding to infectious disease.
Course Outcomes
  1. Understand key social scientific concepts used to explain the connections public health authorities forge with the public;
  2. Critically engage with contemporary public and media discussion of pandemic threats and of responses to pandemics;
  3. Understand the range of challenges public health authorities face in gaining and maintaining public trust.
Teaching strategies and rationale

The teaching strategies are designed to facilitate the development of particular skills, including:

  • Demonstrating your critical engagement with social research both in discussion and in writing (all assignments)
  • Discussing your evaluations, interpretations and ideas with others (tutorial participation)
  • Discussing other people’s evaluations, interpretations and ideas with them (tutorial participation)
  • Selecting and analysing relevant literature in a way that explains the relevance and the development of your own position as you plan and write your essay (essay)
  • Presenting and arguing your ideas and position (critical summary, essay)
  • Explaining the implications of your position for population regulation (essay)

Assessment Task 1 - Building Tutorial Discussion: Tut Work
Weighting: 20%
Length: n/a

Assessment Task 2 - Critical summary of assigned paper
Weighting: 30%
Length: 800 words

Assessment Task 3 - Final Essay
Weighting: 50%
Length: 2000 words, including references

Readings and resources

Learning resources for this course consist of the following:

  1. Course notes and readings (posted on Moodle)
  2. Lectures slides (posted in Moodle)
  3. Lecture recordings (available in Moodle)