University of Technology Sydney

96732 Foundations 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 2024 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Health
Credit points: 3 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks


This subject is designed to provide students with an overview of conceptual underpinnings of public health and its historical development, introduce key terms and approaches, and apply these to a range of contemporary issues that impact on health. In answering the question, “What is health?” students first explore different conceptions of health, including personal, lay, non-Western, gender-diverse, Indigenous and organisational definitions, and assess reasons why health workers and systems may need to incorporate an understanding of these in addressing health issues. Students then look at the question of “What is public health?” and consider some of its main approaches. Students are introduced to several public health processes and models that are central to public health. Finally, students examine the development of public health over time, including a discussion of some of the key historical events that led up to the development of the new public health approaches from the 1980s until the present day, both in Australia and globally. Students then apply these to a range of key health challenges.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
A. Appraise public health scholarship/thinking and its major components
B. Contrast the different and comparable elements of biomedical and public health perspectives/approaches to health issues
C. Analyse and relate the historical and disciplinary roots of contemporary public health
D. Describe the role and contribution of different health fields to public health scholarship
E. Recognise the importance of differential and lay understandings of health to a range of communities, including Indigenous, gender-diverse and people with disabilities
F. Apply insights from the new public health to a range of key public health challenges, both in Australia and internationally

Teaching and learning strategies

In this subject, students will participate in three face-to-face workshops and weekly online teaching and learning activities designed to develop knowledge of public health concepts, principles and scholarship. Each of the three modules is designed to engage learners in a cycle of inquiry, with activities intended to challenge preconceptions, promote understanding and knowledge, share experiences and perceptions, and learn from some of the most significant scholars in our field. Students will complete assigned readings and online individual and group discussion activities. Webinars will complement the online learnings to include problem-based learning activities, case studies and scenarios. Students will be required to complete all assigned readings and review other materials, including podcasts, videos, and other multimedia resources. Informal feedback will be provided where needed in the webinars and during online activities, with formal feedback given about two weeks after each assignment submission date.

One aim of this subject is to help students develop academic and professional language and communication skills in order to succeed at university and in the workplace. Tasks related to this have been set up in the introductory Module 0 of the course, which students are required to complete in the first week of the session. To determine current academic language proficiency, students must complete an online language screening task, OPELA (Online Post-Enrolment Language Assessment). If students receive a Basic Grade for OPELA, they must attend additional Language Development Tutorials (each week from weeks 3 to 11) in order to pass the subject. The development of these tutorials is a new university-wide initiative designed to provide personalised support and enhance students’ English language skills. They will focus on developing communication skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening) and independent learning skills, which will help students to prepare for the subject assessment tasks and for professional workplace communication tasks.

Content (topics)


  • Course expectations, introductions, requirements, citations and references, OPELA


  • Lay and non-medical understandings of health
  • Sociological assessments of health
  • Institutional definitions of health
  • Non-Western understandings of health
  • Defining public health
  • The burden of disease and epidemiology


  • The social determinants of health
  • The ‘old’ public health and biomedical models
  • The new public health (emerging public health models, Alma Ata and primary health care, health promotion)
  • The evolution of public health in Australia
  • Emerging health issues in Australia and abroad


Assessment task 1: Contribution to online activities


Following the completion of assigned readings for each module, students will join an online discussion to critically and collaboratively examine key points from their own experience and perspectives. This assignment assesses student contributions to this forum.

Weight: 30%

Portfolio of posts, best post, plus a one-page reflection.

Assessment task 2: Concepts of health


To review some important conceptions of health and consider why awareness of such conceptions is important to the healthcare sector and for the promotion of broader social wellbeing.

Weight: 30%

1000 words plus or minus 10% (excluding reference list)

Assessment task 3: New public health approach and contemporary health challenges


To provide students with the opportunity to examine whether and how new public health approaches can be used in addressing health and broader social challenges.

Weight: 40%

1500 words, plus or minus 10% (not including references)

Minimum requirements

It is a requirement of this subject that all students complete OPELA. Students who received a Basic grade in the OPELA test are required to attend 80% of the Language Development Tutorials in order to pass the subject. Please see the UTS Student Rules Section 3.8 (detailed under ‘other resources’).

Students are required to complete 80% of the Language Development Activities in order to pass the subject. Students who do not complete this component of the subject will receive a Fail (X) grade.

Required texts

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

An electronic copy of the whole book is available as an e-book at UTS Library.

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 UTSOnline at: or 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