Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

POPLHLTH 307 - Communities and Addictions

15 Points

Semester 1



This course examines how addictions such as tobacco, alcohol, drugs and gambling seriously undermine the health of individuals and the communities in which they live and/or work. Case studies are used to understand the primary elements of community and cultural health development.


Prerequisite: 30 points at Stage II in Population Health


Addiction is a controversial term and it can be defined differently by the average citizen, politician, or treatment provider.  Substance use and other forms of addiction (gambling or eating disorders) are prevalent within communities and some communities more than others. Addictive behaviour also contributes in a number of harmful ways to our health and wellbeing and extends into the community. This undergraduate level paper offers students an entry point to theory, research and practice regarding problems associated with substance use and other addictive behaviours, while employing a public health perspective. The paper will focus on recent developments in the prevention, intervention and treatment of addiction within frameworks relevant to Asian, Pacific, Maori, and Pakeha groups. Models of addiction will be featured to complement the public health approaches.  This paper is most relevant to students pursuing careers in health research, mental health and specialist practice in substance abuse services, problem gambling services, and eating disorders.

Overall, this paper is intended to cover basic addiction models and public health approaches to addiction.  The emphasis is on gaining an understanding and appreciation of different approaches to addiction and why some models or approaches are better applied to specific population groups or individuals. There will be an emphasis on addiction models and addictive behaviour in the first part of the term. After the semester break, there will be an emphasis on public health approaches to potentially addictive behaviour. The organisational layout of this paper hopes to reflect what is offered in the New Zealand communities for intervention, prevention and treatment of addictive behaviours.   

Key course objectives

By the conclusion of the course, each participant will be expected:

  • To provide an introduction to models of addiction
  • To promote a critical discussion of these models
  • To foster student interest and knowledge about addictive behaviour and how this may affect specific communities (Asian, Māori, Pacific Peoples, Pākehā)
  • To learn about public health approaches and what is being done in terms of prevention, intervention and treatment in New Zealand
  • To apply the Treaty of Waitangi to a public health response to problem gambling and addictive behaviour for Māori

The student will also be expected to have acquired skills in:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Academic writing

At the conclusion of the course the student should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the main assumptions and conceptual models of addiction
  • Reflect upon spiritual and/or cultural themes in relation to addiction
  • Articulate how addiction can affect a specific community
  • Relate theory and practice at both the individual and community level
  • Take positions within theoretical debates and demonstrate an ability to argue for them
  • Have the ability to apply the Treaty of Waitangi to a public health response to problem gambling and addictive behaviour for Māori 

Structure of the course

There are two one hour lectures and one hour tutorial each week. 

Lecture schedule




Welcome and introduction to the paper: Addiction, dependency and the self-medication model 


Social Learning Theory 


Problem gambling and social learning theory 


Disease model & Stages of Change 


Speakers from NA 


Sex Addiction 


Problematic mobile phone use 


Internet Addiction 


Eating Disorders and the disease model


Speakers from OA


Mid-semester break


Midterm review


Midterm (in class)


ANZAC holiday – no class


Public health approach to Maori and smoking  


Violence amongst women and substance abuse-Public Health approach


Methamphetamine and public health approaches


Double Trouble – Dually Addicted and the Public Health Approach


Methadone Maintenance as a public health approach


Sugar Addiction and Public Health


Sports doping as a public health approach Essay Due 


Drink Driving and public health approaches


Community/neighbourhood-level factors which influence adolescent alcohol use – A Public Health Approach


Queen’s Birthday holiday


Exam review

Course assessment

Mid-term test: 25%

Essay: 25%

Final examination: 50% 

Recommended readings

A list of recommended readings is given for each session on Canvas and compulsory reading will be announced.  Students will be expected to have read these prior to the sessions, and to be prepared to discuss the issues and questions arising from them. 

Reference material

There is a list of texts on short term loan for some of the suggested readings.


Useful websites 

Auckland Regional Public Health Service and other regional public health units 

Centre for Gambling Studies                                    http://www.gamblingstudies.co.nz  

Department of Internal Affairs                                


Harvard’s WAGER Weekly Journal                           


British Medical Journal                                           


National Centre for Treatment Development (NZ)     


National Council on Problem Gambling (USA)           


CAMH Electronic Journal of Gambling Issues             


Health Education Resource                                    


District Health Boards                                            


Nongovernmental organisations                              

www.moh.govt.nz/districthealthboards  www.beehive.govt.nz

European association for the study of gambling       


Department of Internal Affairs                                 


Geneva Declaration on health and survival of indigenous people

Maori health website                                              http://www.maorihealth.govt.nz/
Te Puni Kokiri, Ministry of Maori Affairs                       http://www.tpk.govt.nz 
Ministry of Social Development                                  http://www.msd.govt.nz 
Maori health website                                                http://wwwnz/hauora_maori/resources/feature/0001/002.htm 
Alcohol concern                                                    http://www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/council/documents/alcoholstrategy/1.asp 
Ministry of Health (you can search for Maori, Pacific, Asian, and Pakeha reports on addictions on this website)     http://www.moh.govt.nz 
Public Health Association                                       www.pha.org.nz 
Maori health website                                            http://www.hauora.com 
The National Library’s Te Puna Web Directory of Maori resources http://webdirectory.natlib.govt.nz/dir/en/nz/maori/  

Course Director