Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

POPLHLTH 760 - Principles of Public Health

15 Points

Semesters 1 & 2

Important: A student enrolled for the PG Certificate or Diploma in Public Health or Master of Public Health who has completed the Bachelor of Health Sciences from the University of Auckland may not enrol in POPLHLTH 760, and must select an alternative course from the Master of Public Health Schedule. POPLHLTH 760 cannot be counted towards a public health programme for BHSc graduates.


Consideration of the principles underlying the modern practice of public health. Students examine the major core concepts in public health, including determinants of health, health equity, environments and health, health promotion and health systems.

Programme and course advice

This core course for students starting the postgraduate Public Health programme should be taken in the first semester of study, particularly by full-time students. Students starting in semester 2 and part-time students taking the specialisation certificates in Environmental Health, Health Promotion or Māori Health may start with another course but should take it in their second semester of study.

Students who have completed the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme are restricted from taking this course as much of the course content will have been covered during the BHSc.

Students from programmes other than the Public Health programme are welcome to apply to enrol in this course, however preferential enrolment will be given to students in the Public Health programme.

Course aims

Goals of the course

This course:

  • Introduces students to a public health perspective on health issues
  • Provides public health frameworks for exploring health issues
  • Provides a foundation for critical thinking in public health

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students will have a basic postgraduate level of understanding of the following:

  • The scope of public health, including how a population health approach differs from a clinical approach
  • The concept of health equity as it relates to public health values, concepts and practice
  • The relationship between physical and social environments and health outcomes
  • The many approaches to public health action, and how these target some of the issues raised in the course

Content outline

Day 1: What is public health?

Introduces the core concepts for the course. Topics include the concepts of causation, prevention, health systems and health policy.

Day 2: Health equity and social determinants of health

Describes the factors responsible for inequalities in health between disadvantaged and privileged population groups in Aotearoa New Zealand and globally, with a particular focus on Māori and Pacific health and social determinants of health.

Day 3: Environments and public health

Describes the contextual factors that affect individual health and health equity. Social and physical environments are discussed at multiple levels, from local to global.

Day 4: Public health action

Summarises key concepts from Blocks 1-3, demonstrating how they are applied to public health action. Topics include health promotion, ‘health in all policies’, health protection and primary health care.

Learning and teaching

Learning and teaching

Teaching will be in one-day blocks. It will primarily consist of lectures by the teaching staff (below), as well as expert guests from the School of Population Health and the broader health sector. Class and small group discussions will be incorporated to facilitate student learning. Course readings and resources will be posted on the University intranet system for teaching and learning (Canvas) to enable students to access most resources online.

Campus teaching dates 

This course is held at Tāmaki Campus. Please see your timetable on SSO or Building 730 Reception noticeboard on the day for the room details.

Learning resources

Recommended text:

  • Baum, F. The New Public Health. Melbourne, Oxford University Press 4th ed, 2015


  • Assignment 1: 25%
  • Assignment 2: 35%
  • Exam (2 hours): 40%

The semester one examination period will be confirmed closer to the date. Note that the examination timetables are not finalised and available to students until 6-8 weeks into the semester. 

Course Coordinator

Course Administrator

Email: pgpophealth@auckland.ac.nz

Phone: +64 (0) 9 9232760