In this course, your understanding of contemporary public health problems and approaches will be enhanced through an introduction to:

  • the history of public health
  • core functions of public health
  • surveillance and measurement of population health
  • principles of communicable and non-communicable disease control
  • health promotion and social determinants of health
  • Indigenous health and wellbeing
  • health policy
  • health care systems. 

Students will have the opportunity to discuss contemporary issues in public health with their peers and hear from a range of experts.

Mode of study

Face-to-face classes on-campus for Internal students & fully online for Distance External students

Key contacts

A/Prof Sally Nathan
Course Convenor
+61 (2) 9385 1061

A/Prof Anthony Newall
Course Convenor
+61 (2) 9385 8716

Who should do this course?

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 Master of Global Health, Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence and Master of Health Leadership and Management programs.

Course outcomes

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.

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

  • describe the history of public health and explain how it relates to current public health practice
  • explain key public health principles and concepts and how they apply to different public health issues
  • identify and critique approaches to improving population health including their impact on health equity
  • examine and critique how social determinants impact health, wellbeing and disease across different population groups
  • examine and critique the role of government and other actors and their impact on public health policy and practice.

Learning & teaching

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 also 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.  

In 2022, PHCM9041 will run in a very similar way for both internal and external students with all content delivered online, however there will be an opportunity for face-to-face interaction via two optional Q&A sessions in a classroom or online versions of the same sessions via webinars. There are a total of 14 modules in this course. 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: 25%
Length: 1000 words

Assessment Task 3 – Participation in online tutorial groups
Weighting: 15%
Length: 400 words

Assessment Task 4 – Public health issues in practice
Weighting: 45%
Length: 2000 words

Readings & resources 

Learning resources for this course consist of the following, available in Moodle:

  • course notes and readings
  • lecture slides and recordings
  • supplementary resources such as videos and podcasts.