Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

POPLHLTH 758 - Theoretical Concepts of Health

15 Points 

Semester 1



A number of theoretical explanations of public health are considered in order to address health issues in diverse communities. An ecological perspective of health will be explored and the specific models of population health will be critiqued.

Course aims

The course seeks to engage your interest in critical and creative thinking in areas relevant to your career in areas associated with population health. The emphasis throughout this course will be on your views and your thinking on what underpins our approaches to health. The course will, therefore, be different from other courses you have taken where the content is more defined and specific.

Goals of the course

The overall aims of the course are:

  1. To engage appreciation of the importance of theory in the study of health
  2. To promote a critical appreciation of major theoretical assumptions underpinning health science
  3. To foster graduate student interest, knowledge and possible ongoing commitment to the place of theory in the academic study of health

Learning outcomes

By the conclusion of the course, you will be expected to:

  1. Demonstrate an appreciation of the alternative ways in which knowledge is generated
  2. Articulate clearly their own assumptions and positioning regarding knowledge, science and health
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of key concepts and terminology for discussing the theoretical underpinnings of health science
  4. Take positions within theoretical debates

Learning and teaching

The course will consist of 12 two-hour teaching sessions plus self-directed reading and assignments. The reading will focus both on a general knowledge of the field and on the development of specialist interests. The teaching assumes that you will devote an equivalent length of time to the preparation for a session as the time in the session itself. The preparation should include the reading material provided as well as more specific material you have found through your own searches.

During the course you will be encouraged to develop your own perspectives and interests within the broad field of population health. Assignment work assumes significant self-directed reading into specialist interest areas. Tutorials will focus on open discussion with an emphasis on posing questions, highlighting dilemmas and encouraging you to think creatively and critically about where you stand on key issues.

Content outline

The content of the course will be presented to illustrate issues posed by the following four meta-narrative academic traditions.

  • Progress
  • Emancipation
  • Realisation
  • Critical

Campus teaching dates 

This course is held at Tāmaki Campus. The course will consist of twelve weekly classes. Please see your timetable on SSO or Building 730 Reception noticeboard on the day for the room details.

Class teaching will involve a mixture of presentations and discussion. The main aim is to provide a general introduction to issues with each dilemma in order to inform subsequent discussion. You are encouraged to participate actively in discussions and to clearly communicate both consenting and dissenting viewpoints.

During the course you will be encouraged to develop your own perspectives and interests in the field and to relate these to your current or future employment situations. Assignment work assumes significant self-directed reading into specialist interest areas.

Learning resources 

A list of recommended readings is given for each session. These are shown on Cecil via the Course Page.

You will be expected to have read listed pieces prior to the sessions, and to be prepared to discuss the issues and questions arising from them. This is intended to help you expand your reading on each topic, and is also designed to assist with assignment work.

In preparing assignments, you will be expected to have gone well beyond the references listed and to have read more deeply into key works on your preferred topic.

Given the rapidly changing nature of each topic, it is certain that significant readings will become available after the preparation of this course manual. You will be advised when these become part of the recommended reading.


On-course assessment contributes to 60% of the final mark. Results from an exam at the end of the semester will comprise the other 40% of the mark.

Programme and course advice

This is a compulsory course in the Postgraduate Honours Programme attached to the Bachelor of Health Science. 

We hope you enjoy the course and find it both challenging and useful in your learning and planning for your future.

We also welcome those enrolling as part of their Masters or PhD study. Students interested in taking this course should contact the academic course director Peter Adams for approval, before applying for a concession.

Course Coordinator

Course Administrator