Credit points


Campus offering

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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 1Multi-mode
  • Term Mode
  • Semester 1Online Unscheduled



Unit rationale, description and aim

An in depth understanding of the history and principles of public health is vital to becoming an effective public health professional. In this unit, students will examine the principles of public health and consider key historical developments that have shaped public health, with an emphasis on the broader social and economic influences. Students will examine public health values and ethical principles indicating how they support public health scope of practice. The assessment of evidence used in public health will be introduced particularly as it relates to priority setting and policy development in health care. Students will apply their understanding of the principles fo public health in activities that exemplify key debates, difficulties and resourcing dilemmas of contemporary public health challenges. The aim of this unit is to provide students with the opportunity to evaluate the historical milestones in public health that have shaped it as a discipline and through critical analysis of the key principles that underpin public health practice develop experience in using tools used in the discipline.

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
LO1Demonstrate advanced knowledge of the history of ‘public health’ as well as public health values, principles and scope of practiceGC1, GC2, GC11
LO2Critically analyse research evidence for public health in priority setting and policy developmentGC1, GC2, GC7, GC8
LO3Critique the role of public health principles and community engagement in improving population healthGC1, GC2, GC7, GC8, GC11
LO4Apply methods and assessment tools used in contemporary practice to public health challengesGC1, GC2, GC11


Topics will include: 

History of public health 

  • Emergence of public health as a discipline  
  • Key figures and events in the history of public health (e.g John Snow and the London cholera epidemic) 
  • The contribution of the broad social and economic conditions to the emergence of public health  
  • Historical influences on contemporary practice (including colonization and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health) 

Public health values, principles and scope of public health practice 

  • Public health values and principles (e.g. Individual verus population health, inequality, inequity) 
  • Principles of the Ethical Practice of Public Health 
  • Australian public health legislation 
  • Scope of public health practice 

Evidence for public health prioirity setting and policy development 

  • Evidence-based public health research  
  • Evidence based resources (e.g. Cochrane Library) 
  • Using evidence for public health:  
  • prority setting 
  • policy development 


Community engagement and behaviour change for improving population health 

  • Community engagement, community empowerment and approaches to public health action  
  • Value of partnership 
  • Cultural competency 
  • Theorectical frameworks for individual behaviour change 


 Contemporary public health challenges and approaches 

  • Public health challenges (e.g. equity, climate change, (non) communicable diseases, pollution, injury, healthy cities, migration, advocacy and others) 
  • The new public health 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

PUBH610 is offered in both multi-mode and online mode. 



In multi-mode, this unit is delivered primarily via face-to-face sessions on campus. It comprises lectures and tutorials during the semester, using student-centred teaching and an active learning approach, to support students in the exploration of the history and principles of public health . Lectures are used to teach essential theory and concepts. This learning is then reinforced through facilitated tutorial activities involving reading, writing, discussion, and problem solving, which provides students with the opportunity to apply lecture content to particular public health contexts/scenarios, and progressively develop their ability to apply public health principles and approaches to contemporary health issues. 


Online mode  

In online mode, students acquire essential theoretical knowledge in public health history and principles in a flexible online learning environment, which involves a series of specially designed learning activities. This learning is extended and reinforced through readings, online discussion forums and other interactive activities to develop understanding of public health history and principles. 

The learning and teaching strategies of this unit are designed to allow students to meet the aims, learning outcomes of the unit, and graduate attributes of the University. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to engage actively with unit content and learning activities.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Please note assessment will be equitable 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%. 


PUBH610 involves assessment tasks designed to introduce students to the broad scope of the history and principles of public health. In Assessment Task 1 , students are required to write a ‘rapid response’ to demonstrate advanced knowledge of the history of public health as well as public health values, and principles. In Assessment Task 2, students act as population health consultants contracted to perform a health inequality audit of a local area. Students apply a standard audit tool to available data on the health status of the local population, and provide an analysis of health inequality in the area in the form of a report. In Assessment Task 3, students will consider factors that influence priority setting and resource allocation.


All assessment tasks will be submitted electronically.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment task 1 Write a ‘rapid response’ to a journal article.This will enable students to demonstrate advanced knowledge of the history of public health as well as public health values, and principles


LO1, LO3

Assessment task 2: Health Inequality audit This will enable students to apply knowledge of population health inequality through use of a tool used by public health practitioners;


LO1, LO3, LO4

Assessment task 3: Priority setting exercise This task will enable students (1) to apply a framework for priority setting to population health data and (2) to integrate the public health evidence principles of public health with practical problems.3) Critically analyse evidence for public health


LO2, LO3, LO4

Representative texts and references

Lin, V., Smith, J., & Fawkes, S. (2014). Public health practice in Australia: The organised effort, 2nd edition. New South Wales: Allen & Unwin 2014 


Came, H. (2014). Sites of institutional racism in public health policy making in New Zealand. Social Science & Medicine, 106, 214-200 


Kumanyika, S.K. (2014). Five Critical Challenges for Public Health. Health Education & Behavior,41(1), 5–6. doi:10.1177/1090198113511818 


Sherwood, J. (2009). Who is Not Coping with Colonization? Laying Out the Map for Decolonization. Australas Psychiatry, 17(S24). doi:10.1080/10398560902948662 


Ward, J.W. (2006). Silent victories: The History and practice of public health in 20th Century America. Cary, NC, USA Oxford University Press [ACU ebook] 


World Health Organisation (WHO) (2006) What is the evidence on effectiveness of empowerment to improve health. Retrieved from 

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