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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 2Multi-mode
  • Term Mode
  • Semester 2Online Unscheduled



Unit rationale, description and aim

If public health embodies the organised effort of society to protect and promote health, then public health law and policy is fundamental to achieving that organised effort. The aim of this unit is to enable students to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills necessary to use law and policy to improve public health. Following an overview of the Australian legal system and institutions, students will be introduced to fundamental legal concepts and principles, followed by an examination of key areas of public health law relating to health protection, practitioners, systems and services, as well as specific issues or situations that pose a risk to population health. Students will also consider policy development, implementation and analysis, and the role of politics, interests, evidence and economics in shaping policy. Students will then apply their knowledge and understanding to the process of law reform and policy change, with emphasis on public health advocacy for improving law and policy and thus improving public health and wellbeing.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Describe examples of law and policy that promote or protect public health in a diverse range of settingsGC1, GC2
LO2Demonstrate an integrated understanding of the law and policy making processes, especially the contribution of public health practitioners and other key actorsGC1, GC2, GC3, GC4, GC11
LO3Critically apply legislative and policy responses to complex public health challengesGC1, GC2, GC7, GC8, GC11
LO4Evaluate and critique law and policy making processes in contemporary areas of public health programmes and interventionsGC1, GC2, GC5, GC7, GC8, GC11



Topics include: 

Public health law 

  • Introduction to the Australian legal system: history, institutions, concepts, relationships, international comparisons; fundamental legal principles 
  • Law and health generally: health rights, theoretical obligations, practical applications and examples
  • Reading and interpreting law: definitions, rules, case examples 
  • Common legislative objectives and powers used in public health 
  • Legislative schemes and institutions directly relevant to public health:  


Public health policy 

  • Health policy: areas, structure and jurisdictional influences 
  • Policy development: theoretical models and frameworks and policy-making processes
  • Interests and influences on policy: politics, stakeholders and advocacy groups  
  • Evidence and the policy-making process: evidence-based vs evidence-informed policy 
  • Policy implementation, monitoring, analysis and evaluation  
  • Evaluation of public health policy


Advocacy and public health law and policy 

  • Advocacy and its influence on law and policy 
  • Law reform and policy change: key points in parliamentary, political and public-sector processes  
  • Case studies: examples of public health (or other interest group) advocacy in debates on law reform or policy change 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

To achieve the sequence of learning outcomes specified in this unit, the learning and teaching strategy adopted comprises three phases that are designed to provide students with a developmental learning experience.

a) The unit begins with approaches designed to support acquisition of knowledge needed to understand fundamental legal institutions, concepts and principles of public health law relating to protecting and promoting the health of the population.

b) It builds on this by progressing to activities that support the development of a theoretical understanding of concepts, frameworks, and processes needed to inform the skills for public health policy development and implementation.

c) The final stage involves approaches that support students in developing skills needed in the application of the theoretical understanding of law and policy to public health practice.

Thus, overall, the approaches used in this unit have a constructively aligned developmental sequence designed to progressively and logically support students' learning in ways that maximise the perceived (and actual) relevance and value of each stage. As an overarching strategy, this is known to engender higher levels of engagement and effectiveness in students’ study behaviours, and to maximise their learning achievements.

PUBH632 is offered in both multi-mode and online mode. 


In multi-mode, this unit is delivered primarily via face-to-face sessions on campus (e.g. lectures, workshops, seminars). The unit uses an active learning approach where activities support students to acquire essential theoretical knowledge in public health law and policy. Online content (e.g. readings) via Canvas also supports this acquisition. Seminars and workshops are designed to allow students the opportunity to apply lecture content to particular public health contexts/scenarios, and progressively develop higher level skills of analysis and application of law/policy in public health practice. 

Online mode  

In online mode, students acquire essential theoretical knowledge in public health law and policy via a series of asynchronous online lessons which include: recorded lecture content, online readings, online discussion forums and self-directed learning modules. Students are given the opportunity to attend facilitated synchronous online tutorial classes (virtual classroom via Adobe Connect) to participate in the construction and synthesis of this knowledge with other students so as to develop higher level skills of analysis and application of law/policy in public health practice. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

Please note assessment is the same for students undertaking either multi-mode or online mode. 

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. In order to successfully complete this unit, students need to complete and submit three graded assessment tasks and obtain an aggregate mark of greater than 50%.

Assessment 1 comprises quizzes designed to support acquisition of knowledge needed to understand fundamental public health law and policy concepts and principles relating to protecting and promoting population health. These formative tasks will be scheduled early in the semester to provide students with timely feedback to monitor progress and allow opportunities for improvement. 

Assessment 2 enables students to integrate their understanding of public health law and policy making processes by simulating the work of a public health practitioner working as a Policy Analyst providing policy and regulatory analysis and advice, in the form of a formal briefing for an organisation.

Assessment 3 allows students to consider the unit content as a whole, and to progressively develop their knowledge and skills to the level of sophistication where they are able to critically evaluate and apply policy and law processes to a particular public health issue or intervention.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment 1: Quizzes

Purpose: enable students to acquire knowledge of concepts, principles and frameworks of law and policy that protect and promote population health. 



Assessment 2: Written Paper (1200 words) 

Purpose: enable students to integrate their understanding of law and policy making processes in relation to Public Health. 



Assessment 3: Major Essay (3,000 words) 

Purpose: enable students to critically evaluate and apply policy and law processes to a particular public health intervention. 


LO2, LO3, LO4

Representative texts and references

Boyle, P. (2010). Policy and public health (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.

Buse, K., Mays, N. & Walt, G. (2012). Making health policy (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.

Forrester, K., & Griffiths, D. (2015). Essentials of law for health professionals. (4th ed.). Mosby.

Gostin, L.O. & Wiley, L. F. (Eds.). (2018). Public Health Law and Ethics: A reader (3rd ed.). University of California Press [ACU Ebook]

Gostin, L.O. & Wiley, L. F. (2016). Public Health Law: power, duty, restraint. (3rd ed.). University of California Press.

Kerridge, I., Lowe, M. & Stewart, C. (2013). Ethics and law for the health professions. The Federation Press.

Lin, V., Smith, J., Fawkes, S., Robinson, R. & Gifford, S.M. (2014). Public health practice in Australia: The organised effort. (2nd ed.). Allen & Unwin.

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