Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


PUBH100 Foundations of Public Health OR PUBH102 Foundations of Health Promotion

Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning

Unit rationale, description and aim

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises the importance of social and economic factors in determining population health, and understanding these factors requires knowledge of economics and related social policy. This unit builds on students’ understanding of the social determinants of health by exploring key concepts in economics and their relevance to population health. The unit will demonstrate the important relationships between economic systems and theories, social policy processes and programs and public health outcomes and interventions. By the end of the unit, students will have deepened their understanding of social determinants of health by recognising the importance of economic systems and related social policy, and be able to apply this to issues in public health practice. The specific impact of economic systems on indigenous populations will be considered. The overall aim of this unit is to equip students with the knowledge and skills to critically evaluate the impact of both economic policy and systems on individual and population health, particularly in relation to disadvantaged and marginalised communities. 

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 - Describe a broad range of economic concepts, and their relevance to public health. (ACU Graduate attribute: 2, 4, 5) 

LO2 - Explain the health impact of economic concepts and systems, and related social policy with a particular focus on disadvantaged and marginalised populations. (ACU Graduate attribute: 4, 5, 6) 

LO3 - Appraise health promotion and disease prevention strategies from a critical economic perspective (ACU Graduate attribute: 4, 5, 8) 

LO4 - Apply critical economic concepts to public health policy and programming. (ACU Graduate attribute: 4, 5, 6) 

Graduate attributes

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

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

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

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


Topics will include: 


  • Key concepts in Australian economics, including: 
  • Neo-classical economics 
  • Theories of resource allocation 
  • Public vs private goods 
  • Rational choice theory 
  • Allocative efficiency 
  • Price elasticity 
  • Incentives and sanctions 
  • Externalities 
  • Opportunity costs 
  • Intergenerational reports 
  • Strengths and weaknesses of key concepts in health economics, including: 
  • cost-effectiveness 
  • cost-benefit 
  • QALYS 
  • community engagement in resource allocation in health 
  • co-payments for health services 
  • Overview of the policy development processes 
  • Interests and influences on policy: politics, stakeholders and advocacy groups, economics, evidence 
  • Employment policy and the link to welfare policy 
  • Impact of economic and social policy decisions on low-income groups 
  • Alternative economic models and resultant interventions 
  • Global organisations and their impact on social determinants of health 
  • Applied examples of policy and economics in public health: e.g. excise on tobacco 
  • Who pays for public health and how? 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is offered in attendance mode to ensure high quality interactive and constructive peer learning. This unit comprises both lectures and tutorials, using an active learning approach to support students in the exploration of the essential knowledge associated with critical understanding of economic relevance of social determinants of health. Students are able to explore this essential knowledge in a series of on-campus lecture style classes, which will also be recorded allowing asynchronous access. Students are required to attend facilitated tutorial classes to participate in the co-construction and synthesis of this knowledge with other students so as to develop a level of understanding sufficient to critically interrogate the economic aspects of public health. This approach is designed to ensure learning within a proximal social environment and allows for essential skill development with expert support. An issues-based curriculum ensures that students are actively engaged in applying economic concepts. Economic decisions that have an impact on lower-income Australians will be discussed. Alternatives from left- and right-wing political positions will be compared and contrasted. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy used allows students to progressively develop their knowledge and skills to the level of sophistication where they are able to apply alternative economic models to public health issues. The assessment strategy commences with a lower stakes and lower weighted assessment in the form of on-line mini quizzes to scaffold understanding. Students are then required to demonstrate deeper learning by assimilation of this knowledge in an essay that synthesises key economic concepts including their strengths and shortcomings. Students are then given the opportunity to progress to the more sophisticated application and analysis of a public health issue from an economic perspective. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Two On-line mini quizzes: 

Enables students to demonstrate their ability to describe key concepts in Public Health Economics  


LO1, LO2 

GA2, GA4, GA5, GA6 

Written Essay 1: 

Enables students to demonstrate their understanding of link between economic and social determinants of health 


LO2, LO3 

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8 

Written Essay 2: 

Enables students to demonstrate their ability to critically evaluate public programs in terms of their application of key economic concepts  


LO3, LO4 

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8

Representative texts and references

Baum F (2016). The new public health (4th ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press. 


Stanford (2015). Economics for everyone: a short guide to the economics of capitalism. London: Pluto Press. 

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