PUBH5749 Foundations of Public Health

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face
Semester 2OnlineOnline
This unit offers a broad based introduction to postgraduate public health studies, including the contributions of theoretical and applied academic disciplines. It provides a multidisciplinary grounding in public health theory and practice that draws on the subject matter of the biomedical, behavioural and social sciences, and the principles and methods of epidemiology and other research disciplines, thereby providing an integrated view of the discipline. After exploring the origins and development of public health, the unit examines the measurement of population health, major public health challenges in developed and developing countries, and the diverse agents, host factors, social, economic, political and environmental conditions that influence the public's health. The unit also explores human rights and equity issues in public health. Examples of public health research are presented, and learning approaches are tailored, to facilitate an integrated view of public health structure and function, health planning and program evaluation.

Students will achieve transdisciplinary grounding in public health theory and practice, and gain substantial breadth and depth of understanding to appreciate the links between public health history, structure and function; and develop the skills for critical analysis and scientific writing in public health.
Students are able to (1) interpret and exemplify analytical approaches, dominant paradigms and action frameworks of major eras of public health; (2) outline key approaches of the New Public Health towards addressing contemporary public health functions; (3) identify specialist public health issues in the human lifecycle (maternal and child health, aging); (4) critically analyse public health related concepts such as Sustainable Development Goals; poverty; social determinants of health, and quality in health care; (5) explain major activities of discipline specific and interdisciplinary building blocks in public health: biostatistics; epidemiology; environmental health science; health promotion; health administration; behavioural sciences; health economics; (6) discuss applications of concepts such as occupational health and safety, injury control and public health advocacy to public health practice in Australia and internationally; and (7) outline components of health systems and the concept of quality in health care.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) written assignment; (2) participation in tutorial activities and discussion forums; and (3) final exam. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Professor Linda Slack-Smith
Unit rules
Advisable prior study:
public health related undergraduate and postgraduate units;
Contact hours
seminars: 3 hours per week

This is provided on the LMS (Learning Management System).


  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
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  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available via the Booktopia Textbook Finder, which has the functionality to search by course code, course, ISBN and title, and may also be posted or available at the appropriate school's administrative offices. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.