Professional course

Introduction to Public Health

15 credit, Masters level module

About this course

Course code:
Professional/Short Course
Health and Social Sciences

Page last updated 18 September 2018


On successful completion of the Introduction to Public Health module students will be able to access, synthesise, critically analyse and apply knowledge and understanding of:

  • The theoretical, philosophical and conceptual foundations of public health, derived from the natural, social, human and environmental sciences.
  • The determinants of health and illness, particularly in relation to social, environmental and political contexts.
  • Political values and ethical frameworks in public health.
  • Historical and geographical trends in the development of public health.
  • Health and social inequalities as determinants and consequences of health status and experience.
  • Public health risk and surveillance from epidemiological and social science perspectives.
  • Public health ethics, rights and accountabilities.
  • The contributions of different sectors, institutions and professions to public health.

Careers / Further study

This module contributes towards:

MSc Public Health
MSc Environmental Health

Accreditations and partnerships:



  • Philosophical and theoretical perspectives on health, illness and public health, including epistemological and ontological arguments and social theories of subjectivity/objectivity, induction/deduction, structure, agency, human nature and modernity.
  • Philosophical perspectives on community and society: community organisation; group and organisational theory; political ideology (individualism, collectivism, communitarianism, market capitalism, etc).
  • Political and ethical values in public health: e.g. beneficence, equity, social justice, altruism, interdependence, social responsibility, harm principle, freedom, risk, etc.
  • Contributions of primary academic disciplines to public health, specifically sociology, ecology, psychology, education, political science, economics and biomedicine.
  • Historical and geographic trends and developments: evolution of the public health field; rise and prominence of biomedicine; national and international political developments (including WHO); global public health trends.
  • Determinants of health and illness: national and international trends; cultural, social, environmental and political contexts; key health drivers.
  • Inequalities in health, healthcare, opportunity and social status: social justice; rights and freedoms; local, national and international classification and social stratification (occupation, income, ethnicity, race, culture, religion, generation, age, gender, sexuality, opportunity and ability); political and ethical debates on inequality.

Learning and Teaching

A double session (full day) is scheduled for the first teaching day of the academic year as a formative developmental workshop. Successive weeks are then delivered as half days.
Classroom based teaching comprises a mix of lectures, workshops and seminars, which include student-centred active learning techniques.

Technology Enhanced Learning supplements taught sessions in the form of essential and supplementary online learning materials (via Blackboard). Module support is provided via Blackboard and via a programme Blog site. Podcasts and Videos are uploaded to Blackboard to support taught input.

Study time

There are 30 hours of contact time delivered through lectures, seminars and on-line activities. These comprise 8 taught 3.5 hour sessions scheduled in semester 1 and supplemented with additional online support. Up to one hour is available for one-to-one tutorial support.


You must undertake one controlled conditions assessment component, which comprises a two hour seen exam on completion of the module.

Component A - Exam (100% weighting):
You are required to write an essay under controlled conditions, critically discussing a public health issue from a multidisciplinary perspective. Prior to the exam, you are provided with recent newspaper/magazine articles that raise different topical, contemporary public health issues.
you must select one of these and use the idea/theme to prepare their essay. The essay should explain and critically review the issue from a multidisciplinary public health perspective, and show insight into determinants of health, social theory and health inequalities. (Assesses all Learning Outcomes).

Assessment details are published in the module handbook at the start of the module.

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How to apply

How to apply

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