University of Technology Sydney

090020 Social Perspectives in Public Health

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2023 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Health
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


Social science concepts and perspectives are essential for understanding health issues and the responses to them as individuals and as a society. This subject examines different theoretical perspectives to explore the human experience of illness and the social structuring of health and disease. The impact of wider social processes upon the health of individuals and social groups is also examined, including processes that produce social inequalities, professional relationships, knowledge and power, and consumption and risk. Students investigate contemporary issues to explore how the social determinants of health can inform the complex challenges of technological, economic and social change in communities and societies.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
A. Define key concepts in health inequalities
B. Critically appraise research findings relevant to social determinants and health inequalities
C. Evaluate explanations for socially determined health inequalities in relation to selected public health issues
D. Examine the impact of social norms and behaviour on access to health services, care and information and health policy and practice examples in health care in a range of Australian Indigenous, national and global settings
E. Apply theoretical perspectives on health inequalities to policy options for public health

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the following graduate attributes:

  • Demonstrate reflective critical thinking to enable critical appraisal of current practice, policy and research with the aim to enhance health care and healthcare outcomes, and transform health (1.0)
  • Are socially, culturally and ethically accountable when engaging with individuals, families, interdisciplinary teams, communities, organisations and jurisdictions (3.0)
  • Embody the international standard of professional qualities appropriate to the scope of their role in regional, national and global health (5.0)

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject is delivered through weekly online learning activities distributed over a period of six weeks. There is an expectation that students complete all online activities to get the most out of the subject. Students will be provided with engaging learning activities to deepen their understanding of qualitative research approaches, concepts and processes and their application relevant to health care and public health. Online activities will offer students with the opportunity to gain knowledge using a range of material, including case studies, and apply their knowledge to real-world contemporary public health issues. Students are expected to work independently and to engage with other students and teachers online through discussion forums and other interactive activities such as weekly Zoom meetings. During weekly Zoom meetings students will engage in discussions to analyse, reflect and develop ideas to address contemporary public health issues using qualitative research methods and theory.

Assessments are designed to complement the learning by providing students with the opportunity to practically apply and track their understanding of fundamental concepts and techniques relevant to qualitative research enquiry. Students will receive feedback from teaching staff in online discussion and activities and on assessment tasks.

Content (topics)

Topic 1: Social determinants of public health

  • Social and cultural factors that impact and mediate health and well-being, illness, disease and health-seeking/health care utilisation
  • The biomedical model and social approaches to health issues in the community
  • Theoretical perspectives on health inequalities

Topic 2: Examination of social perspectives to contemporary public health research

  • Non-communicable disease
  • Sexual and reproductive health
  • Maternal health
  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Global health issues
  • Indigenous health

Topic 3: The role of policy in addressing the social determinants of health

  • Policy levels for tackling health inequalities
  • Healthy public policy in action
  • Presenting decision-makers with policy options


Assessment task 1: Identifying social determinants of health in populations


To identify specific Indigenous sub-populations and underlying psycho-social, medical, and political determinants that influence their health.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

C, D and E

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.0 and 3.0

Weight: 15%

600 words maximum

Assessment task 2: Video presentation for journal club contribution


Students will examine the social determinants of health in the peer reviewed literature to identify evidence for health inequity.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B, C and D

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.0, 3.0 and 5.0

Weight: 35%

5-10 minutes

Assessment task 3: Policy options paper


Students will explore a current public health issue, examine policy options to address the issue and key implementation considerations.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

C, D and E

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.0 and 3.0

Weight: 50%

2,000 words

Recommended texts

Germov, J. (ed). (2019). Second Opinion: An Introduction to Health Sociology, (6th edition). Oxford University Press.


Blas, E. & Kurup, A.S. (2010). Equity, Social Determinants and Public Health Programmes. World Health Organization. Available from:;sequence=1

Berkman, L.F., Kawachi, I. & Glymour, M.M. (2014). Social Epidemiology (2nd edition). Oxford University Press.

Levy, B.S. & Sidel, V.W. (2019). Social Injustice and Public Health. Oxford University Press.

Other resources

UTS Student Centre
Building 10

Monday to Friday: 9am - 5pm
Tel: 1300 ASK UTS (1300 275 887)

Details for student centres:

For other resources/ information refer to the Faculty of Health website ( and Canvas at:

UTS Library
The Library has a wide range of resources, facilities and services to support you including textbooks, subject readings, health literature databases, workshops and bookable study rooms. There is also a team of librarians to help you with your questions available via online chat, phone and in person. W:, Facebook: utslibrary, Twitter: @utslibrary Tel: (02) 9514 3666.

Improve Your Academic and English Language Skills
Marks for all assessment tasks such as assignments and examinations are given not only for what you write but also for how you write. If you would like the opportunity to improve your academic and English language skills, make an appointment with the HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support) Service in Student Services.

HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support)
HELPS provides assistance with English language proficiency and academic language. Students who need to develop their written and/or spoken English should make use of the free services offered by HELPS, including academic language workshops, vacation intensive courses, drop-in consultations, individual appointments and Conversations@UTS ( HELPS staff are also available for drop-in consultations at the UTS Library. Phone (02) 9514 9733.

Please see for additional information on other resources provided to students by UTS.

The Accessibility and Financial Assistance Service
The Accessibility Service can support students with disabilities, medical or mental health conditions, including temporary injuries (e.g., broken limbs). The Accessibility Service works with Academic Liaison Officers in each Faculty to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ such as exam provisions, assistive technology, requests and strategies for managing your studies alongside your health condition. If you’re unsure whether you need assistance, we recommend getting in touch early and we can provide advice on how our service can assist you. Make an appointment with an Accessibility Consultant (AC) on +61 2 9514 1177 or

The Financial Assistance Service can assist you with financial aspects of life at university, including Centrelink information, tax returns and budgeting, interest-free student loans and grants to assist with course-related costs. Check eligibility and apply online and make an appointment on +61 2 9514 1177 or