Students will examine ethical theories and principles, and key legal concepts, and their application to healthcare and public health contexts. The course enables students to identify and analyse the ethical challenges of balancing the interests of individuals and communities within a healthcare context which is costly, complex and increasingly globalised. While the focus is on public health ethics which includes health policy and promotion, clinical and research ethics will also be examined as integral components of contemporary, cutting-edge healthcare service and delivery.

This is a core course in the Bachelor of International Public Health (3880) comprising 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program.

Mode of study

Fully online

Key contacts

Dr Bridget Haire
Course Convenor
+61 (2) 9385 1227

Who should do this course?

Students of the Bachelor of International Public Health (3880) should do this course.

Course outcomes

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

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of a range of ethical issues associated with public health.
  2. Apply ethical frameworks and principles to current policies in public health and discuss the ethical implications.
  3. Recognise the links and differences between ethics and law.
  4. Outline the differences between public health and clinical ethics.
  5. Articulate tensions between just resource allocation and the ‘rule of rescue’.
  6. Critically reflect on own biases and assumptions in ethical reasoning and implications for interpreting public health issues and situations.

Learning & teaching

The course draws on the provision of online lectures and group discussion work and other course material as key teaching strategies. Case studies focusing on key public health issues will be presented and discussed to illustrate key concepts. Each week, we recommend each student devotes 1-2 hours to reading the core readings before listening to the recorded lecture, completing other online activities and participating in the in on-line discussion group. Active participation in online group discussions and activities is central to students learning in this course as students will learn from each other as well as from the course materials. This facilitates discussion and collaboration which is key to ethical decision making. 

This 6-credit 10-week course requires approximately 140 hours of work. The course is delivered totally online over a ten-week term. Students are expected to spend approximately 10 hours a week preparing for and actively participating in this course and preparing for and completing assessments.


Assessment Task 1 - Quiz
Weighting: 15%

Assessment Task 2 - Analysis of a Public Health Policy
Weighting: 25%
Length: 800 words

Assessment Task 3 - Online Discussion Posts
Weighting: 20%

Assessment Task 4 - Ethical Analysis of a Public health Issue
Weighting: 40%
Length: 1200 words

Readings & resources 

The following learning resources for this course are available on Moodle:

  • Online lectures, podcasts, videos, activities and transcripts
  • Weekly lists of readings and viewings. These include ‘required readings and viewings’ that you will need to engage with to complete course activities and achieve course outcomes. Optional readings and viewings, and resources for further self-directed study and exploration are also provided.