Foundations of Public Health

Subject POPH90217 (2012)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2012.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2012:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 24, 2 hours per week for 12 weeks
Total Time Commitment:

120 hours





Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.
The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website.


Ms Rosemary Mckenzie


Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics
Melbourne School of Population health
Telephone: +61 3 8344 0710


Academic Programs Office
Melbourne School of Population Health
Tel: +61 3 8344 9339
Fax: +61 3 8344 0824

Subject Overview:

This subject is a compulsory subject within the Master of Public Health. It is designed to be taken early by MPH students and lays the foundation for the degree. It would also be of value to any student with an interest in public health. The subject provides a critical overview of public health theory and practice in three parts:

Part A: Paradigms
Part B: Systems & Strategies, and
Part C: Priority Setting & Value for Money

Part A: The fundamental historical and conceptual underpinnings of public health are surveyed. Public health practice is situated in the context of broader social issues concerning the underlying socio-economic determinants of health and disease and the drivers of inequity. The population approach is distinguished from one based on the individual.

Part B: The key multi-disciplinary strategies used by public health practitioners to develop and strengthen health systems are introduced, with a focus on the relationship between effective interventions and the varying resource settings in which they are implemented.

Part C: The importance of priority setting in the allocation of resources is explored with a view to achieving best value for money in public health interventions.

Throughout the subject, students will become familiar with the leading frameworks, theories and approaches that differentiate public health from other approaches to health care by engaging with contemporary public health challenges faced both within Australia and overseas.


At the completion of this subject, students should be able to:

  • Describe the principal population-based approaches to health and distinguish them from individual-based approaches.
  • Discuss the historical development of population-based concepts and organised approaches to health and how this has influenced current health services.
  • Describe how the organised, population-based approaches to health are applied in a number of wealthy and developing countries.
  • Critically examine how the factors affecting the application of organised population-based approaches to health differ in these various wealthy and developing countries
  • Describe the concept of priority setting with which governments and societies must engage to most improve the health of their citizens with the funds and resources that are available
  • Apply the concept of priority setting to a specified health area in a setting of constrained resources.


  • One 1000 word short critical analysis of a journal article to be submitted in week 6 (20%)
  • One 45-minute multiple choice test held in week 11 (15%)
  • One 3,000 word essay to be submitted during the exam period, Semester 1 (60%)
  • One 300 word critical reflection of achievement of course objectives through classroom and assessment activities essay to be submitted during the exam period, Semester 1 (5%).

Prescribed Texts:


Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Upon completion of this subject, students will have developed skills in:

  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Oral communication
  • Written communication
  • Finding, evaluating and using relevant information
  • Persuasion and argumentation
Related Course(s): Master of Public Health
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Gender && Women&'s Health
Global Health
Health Economics && Economic Evaluation
Health Program Evaluation
Indigenous Health
Primary Care
Public Health
Sexual Health
Social Health

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