Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

POPLHLTH 316 - Translating Health Information

15 Points

Semester 2



To lead to improvements in health, information needs to be translated appropriately to influence decision makers. Builds the skills and knowledge to be able to both critique and synthesise existing health information as well as to apply analytical methods and presentation approaches to data in order to effecttively communicate findings to different decision-making communities. 


Prerequisite: POPLHLTH 202

Goals of the Course

This course is aimed at those who wish to develop knowledge and skills in how to communicate effectively with decision-makers to inform them and influence their decision making for improving health. This includes communication with a wide range of stakeholders including the scientific community, the public, the media, iwi, health professionals, patients, community organisations, non-government organisations, and all levels of government.

Learning Outcomes

After successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Effectively provide a critique of information translation on contemporary health issues

  2. Identify the health information and communication needs for a range of relevant stakeholders and illustrate how they relate to theories of communication and social change. 

  3. Demonstrate skills in identifying, synthesising, interpreting, critiquing, and translating health information to facilitate effective decision making to improve health outcomes.

  4. Communicate the results of health research using a variety of formats appropriate for specific, different audiences (e.g. brief oral presentation, written abstract, infographic, media release).





Tutorial and Assessments

Module 1 – Communicating within science and health (Boyd Swinburn)

Course overview; introduction to theoretical frameworks of communication; information needs and communication approaches with health researchers and health professionals 

Course introduction and theoretical frameworks

Overview of the course and assessments; overview of theories and frameworks 

Tutorial - critical analysis of media articles 

Case study – childhood obesity

Applying theoretical frameworks in relation to childhood obesity

Tutorial – how to write academic articles and abstracts

Communicating with scientists  Understanding the perspective of scientists and how they communicate  

Tutorial – computer lab PPT presentation 

ASSESSMENT TASK 1 (Brief critical analysis) 

Communicating with health professionals & patients

Understanding the perspectives of clinicians and patients and how they use information

Tutorial – oral presentation skills for assessments 2 and 4  

Module 2 – Communicating with government and non-health groups (Peter Saxton)

Information needs and communication approaches with governments and people and organisations outside the health sector

Communicating with policy makers  

Understanding the perspectives of policy-makers and how they use information

Tutorial – search strategies for academic and grey literature 

ASSESSMENT TASK 2 (Academic presentations) 

Communicating with the public 

Understanding the perspectives of the public & how they use information 

Tutorial - practice with a template for developing a written translation for government





Communicating with Maori and Pacific groups 

Understanding the perspectives from Maori and Pacific groups where the communications approaches differ from mainstream 

Tutorial - Maori/Pacific issues in policy briefs and communications  ASSESSMENT TASK 3 (Written translation) 

Communicating with specific groups in society 

Understanding perspectives from particular groups & communication strategies to reach them

Tutorial – computer lab familiarisation with Piktochart

Module 3 – From raw data to actionable information (Dan Exeter)

Applied analytics, translations, quantitative and qualitative methods and how to communicate information in graphical ways including info-graphics

Extracting meaning from complex data

Extracting meaning, translating and representing data

Tutorial - computer lab extracting meaning from data sets


Principles of data analytics & presentation

Frameworks, theoretical foundations of data analytics and presentation and visual communication

Tutorial - computer lab graphic presentation techniques  



Translating influential data for action and advocacy

Information and communications which influence policies & practice; recapping course content

Tutorial – writing press releases; revise peer review skills 

ASSESSMENT TASK 4 (Data representation)


Class presentations and wrap up  

Class presentations on assessment 4 & peer review for assessment 5

ASSESSMENT TASK 5 (peer review) 






Learning outcomes


Brief critical analysis (individual written task)


Write a brief critical analysis on the communications of contemporary health issues/research as reported in the popular media and to other audiences.

This will involve:

•       Identifying two recent media stories on health topics which have originated from published scientific articles

•       For each story, identifying the original scientific article and other related material such as press releases or other communications on the study

•       Analysing the stories with regards to the key points, communications approaches, and translation of information 

1), 2), 3)


Academic presentations (individual written and oral tasks)


Present of the results of analysed health data in appropriate academic formats including:

•       Write up of a (brief) abstract on a research publication (academic article provided without abstract) (10%)

•       Recording of a three–minute oral presentation on the topic (with PPT slides) appropriate for presentation to an academic/professional conference (e.g. HEALTHX) (10%)

3), 4)


Written translation (individual written task)



Translation of the science on a health topic into a format for government policy-makers

        •     policy brief document

Students will select from a set of provided topics with policy context. They will analyse the evidence base from the literature to develop an appropriate and effective policy brief for a government-level audience.

2), 3), 4)


Data representation (individual graphics, written and oral tasks)


Develop visual representations of data from a data set provided appropriate for councils and local organisation audiences. This will include:

•       Press release on the key findings and implications (15%)

•       Oral presentation of effective visual representations (infographic) targeted to the audience (15%) 

2), 3), 4)


Peer critique (individual written task) 


Peer critique of written and oral data presentation (assessment 4)


Teaching staff

Course Director: Boyd Swinburn

Module leaders: Boyd Swinburn, Peter Saxton, Dan Exeter

Tutor: Michael Vacaru

Additional information

Course Director