School of Population Health

Foundations in Public Health & Health Care Systems (PHCM9041)

image - Foundations in Public Health & Health Care Systems


This course will introduce students to the public health and health care systems. Topics include: the history of public health, core functions of public health; surveillance and measurement of population health; principles of communicable and non-communicable disease control; social determinants of health; indigenous health; public health advocacy and evidence based public health; and an introduction to the Australian and other major health care systems.

Credit points

This is a core course for the Master of Public Health (MPH) program contributing 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the MPH program and is an elective in the MGH, MIDI and MHLM programs.

Mode of study

This course is offered in two modes: 1) either face-to-face classes on-campus for Internal students, and 2) fully online for Distance External students.

Course aim

This course aims to provide you with a solid foundation in the field of public health. This foundation will form the basis for your further study in the Public Health and International Public Health programs.

Course Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • Understand the history of public health.
  • Apply principles of public health to a range of conditions and contexts.
  • Critically assess public health ideas and data.
  • Identify some of the determinants of health and disease in these populations and discuss the role of health promotion.
  • Recognise the public health needs of population groups and discuss reasons for differences in health status.
  • Understand various stakeholders’ positions and processes in relation to health and consider the impact of policy and programs on health.
Learning and teaching rationale

Our approach to learning and teaching is based on adult learning principles.  When you are introduced to new material it is expected that as postgraduate students you will be able to integrate prior knowledge, draw on your own experience and formulate new understandings at a theoretical and practical level.  It is expected that you will engage actively with the course material, carefully reflect on the lectures and actively participate in the online tutorials which will provide you with a strong foundation in public health.   

Our course participants come from diverse backgrounds, with varied forms of professional training and experience.  Participants come from Australia and a number of other countries.  The design of the course aims to ensure that every student can benefit by understanding the relevance of the concepts to their own setting, research interests and experiences.  In order to do this, we draw on Australian and international examples wherever possible and encourage you to compare and contrast systems and approaches.  

Teaching strategies

This course is designed for students studying in internal mode and external mode. External students are advised to follow the same course schedule as that being followed by internal students. There are a total of fifteen modules this term. Each module addresses different aspects of public health at a foundation level. Some of the topics you are introduced to in this course will be covered in more detail in other core courses, or may be available to you to study, in-depth, as elective courses.


Assessment Task 1 - Quiz on public health
Weighting: 15%
Length: Multiple Choice

Assessment Task 2 -  Critical assessment of journal article
Weighting: 20%
Length: 1000 words

Assessment Task 3 - Tutorial discussant and participation in tutorials
Weighting: 15%
Length: 200-700 words

Assessment Task 4 - Public Health Issues in Practice
Weighting: 50%
Length: 2500 words

Readings and resources

Learning resources for this course consist of the following:

  • Course notes and readings (posted in Moodle)
  • Lectures slides (posted in Moodle)
  • Lecture recordings (available in Moodle)
  • Supplementary resources such as videos, podcasts (available in Moodle)