Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning

Unit rationale, description and aim

An understanding of the fundamental elements of public health theory and practice is the essential starting point for any public health practitioner. This unit aims to provide students with an introduction to the scope, function and changing role of public health in society. Students will explore public health as a practice, profession and series of societal achievements, with special reference to the place of public health within the health system overall. Throughout the unit, students will develop an understanding of current public health challenges facing Australia, and the important differences between public health practice and patientfocused clinical practice. Where relevant, students will also develop their awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and the role of public health in addressing health inequities experienced by Indigenous people. The aim of this unit is to introduce students to key concepts, components and disciplines within public health, including: health, disease and illness; determinants of health; epidemiology; disease prevention and management; planning and evaluation in public health; and evidence based practice in public health.

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.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Define public health and outline its core functions and role in improving the health of the community (GA: 5) 

LO2 - Describe the major public health challenges in Australia and internationally, and what role public health can play in addressing these challenges (GA: 7, 8, 10) 

LO3 - Analyse the impact of diverse factors—such as gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic factors—on population health, especially in terms of inequities in health (GA: 1, 2, 5) 

LO4 - Apply knowledge of key public health concepts, such as measurement of population health, inequities in health, determinants of health, disease prevention and management (GA: 4, 5) 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include: 

  • What is health? Defining health, disease, illness and sickness 
  • What is public health? Scope, functions, role of public health and public health practitioners 
  • History of public health: key achievements, failures and challenges 
  • Public health today: current and emergent challenges 
  • Introduction to epidemiology: foundational concepts, measurement of population health and distribution of disease 
  • Evidence-based practice and information sources to support public health  
  • Determinants of health: biological, environmental, social, emotional, behavioral 
  • Health inequality and inequity 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health 
  • Disease prevention and management: public health strategies for communicable and non-communicable diseases; special strategies in emergency/crisis situations 
  • Planning and evaluation in public health 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

PUBH100 is delivered in attendance mode; the primary learning activities are face-to-face sessions on campus (e.g. lectures, workshops, seminars). The unit uses an active learning approach where activities support students to acquire fundamental knowledge to support their future studies of public health or other health-related disciplines. Online content (e.g. readings) via LEO also supports this acquisition. Lectures will provide students with an overview of each topic area, illustrated by case studies or examples that are relatable to first-year students’ experience. Tutorials are designed to allow students the opportunity to apply lecture content to particular public health contexts/scenarios, and progressively develop a coherent understanding of the role, function and importance of public health practice. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

This unit is designed based on a constructivism approach, which supports active learning that encourages students to engage in a range of learning activities to facilitate the construction of new knowledge.   

Assessment in this unit will comprise two written assignments and an end of semester exam. The assessment strategy allows students to progressively develop their knowledge and skills to a level of sophistication where they can apply key public health principles, concepts and frameworks to the analysis and development of public health strategies. The first assessment task draws on the fundamental public health principles and concepts addressed in the early part of the unit, with students defining and describing a public health concept and or framework. The second assessment task builds on the first, with students critically reviewing key public health concepts and theoretical frameworks, and applying these to a selected health issue. At the end of semester, students will be examined on a range of content areas, with particular emphasis on how the various fundamental aspects of public health overlap and interact with each other. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment task 1: written assignment (800 words) 

 Purpose: enables students to define and describe a public health concept and or framework 


1, 2 

1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 10 

Assessment task 2: written assignment (1200 words) 


Purpose: enables students to discuss and analyse a contemporary public health issue/challenge. 


1, 2, 3 

5, 7, 8, 10 

Assessment task 3: end of semester exam (2 hours) 


Purpose: enables students to demonstrate their application and integration of public health principles and concepts (under examination conditions). 


1, 2, 3, 4 

1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10 

Representative texts and references

Baum, F. (2016). The New Public Health (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.  

Fleming ML and Parker E (2015) Introduction to Public Health (3rd ed.), Churchill Livingstone. 

Lin V, Smith J, Fawkes S (2014) Public Health Practice in Australia: the organised effort (2nd ed.). Allen & Unwin. 

Pencheon D, Guest C, Melzer D, Muir Gray JA (eds). (2013). Oxford Handbook of Public Health Practice (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.  

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