School of Population Health

Principles and Practice of Primary Health Care Services in the Community (PHCM9615)

image - Principles and Practice of Primary Health Care Services in the Community


Primary health care (PHC) is recognised as a critical component of any health system, with the potential to improve efficiency and effectiveness. PHC is also the focus of major reform in Australia and overseas. The Principles and Practice of Primary Health Care course provides an introduction to the principles of PHC and their application in the delivery of health care in the community. This course provides a framework for approaching the subject, and a number of service settings are outlined including general practice, community health services, and rural health services. The integration between primary health care and specialised and hospital care is also examined. Participants learn practical skills in appraising the design and delivery of PHC0 services and identifying opportunities for change.

Credit points

The course is one of the courses in the Primary Health Care Specialisation within the Masters of Public Health. It is also available as an elective for any students doing the Master of Public Health or Master of Health Leadership and Management. It comprises 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program.

Mode of study

This course is offered externally and internally. 

Course aim

The aim of this course is to enable you to understand how primary health care can, and does, address the needs of individuals, population groups and communities in Australia and overseas.

Course Outcomes
The outcomes for this course enable you to:
  • explain the objectives, functions and organisation of primary health care services;
  • identify and examine the population and community needs which primary health care services address in different settings, and evaluate the extent to which this is achieved equitably for different groups in society;
  • critically analyse primary health services according to their objectives, functions and organisation;
  • critically evaluate the extent to which care is integrated, coordinated and shared between consumers and providers, and between providers involved in the various levels of health care and other human services;
  • compare the performance of primary health care services in different health systems and identify opportunities for change.
Learning and teaching rationale

The educational approach in this course is to actively involve students in analysing and reflecting on the functions and impact of primary health care on the community. This is achieved by ensuring that there are plenty of opportunities for discussion and for students themselves to present their own experiences and thoughts in small group discussions and presentations. We encourage a critical approach, both to what is presented in classes and to comparisons of the performance of primary health in different countries and states.

The course provides opportunities to further develop your analytic and evaluative skills and to work on projects related to your own workplaces or experience. Students are encouraged to relate what they have learnt to their own experience in the assignments and group discussions. 

The course will also be related to active areas of research including our own research in the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity. This will include opportunities for guest presentations by other researchers and academics as a stimulus for discussion. 

Teaching strategies

This course includes elements of both practice and theory. The workshop will include a mixture of presentations followed by group work on specific issues confronting primary health care services. During the sessions you will be expected to participate in the discussions. There will also be some independent study of the course notes and readings for the assignments.


Assessment Task 1 - Online forum participation, moderation and participation journal
Weighting: 40%
Length: Three best posts (up to 150 words each) and 500 word moderator summary

Assessment Task 2 - Appraisal of a primary health care policy or strategy in Australia or elsewhere
Weighting: 60%
Length: 2000 words

Readings and resources
Learning resources for this course consist of the following:
  • Lectures posted in Moodle
  • Course notes and readings – an electronic copy of the course notes with links to readings will be available in Moodle
  • Lecture recordings and slides
  • Resources – a number of resources and references relevant to this course can be found on the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity website.