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Online Master of Public Health Subjects

Course structure details

12 subjects required

You can complete the online Master of Public in as little as one year if you’re eligible for advanced standing and are studying full time. Many students graduate within two years, but if your schedule becomes challenging, you may take up to five years to complete the course.

Choose from three options to complete the degree. In advanced practice, you’ll complete an industry-based project to address an organisation’s need. In applied research, you’ll complete a publishable research project that includes a thesis. If you choose coursework, you’ll complete four extra subjects and graduate with a specialisation in health management.

Year 1

The Academic Integrity Module will introduce you to academic integrity standards, so you’re informed about how to avoid plagiarism and academic misconduct.  You’ll complete four parts that cover academic misconduct and academic integrity decisions, such as cheating, plagiarism and collusion.  You’ll learn about the text-matching tool, Turnitin, that is used at La Trobe, how to get help and where to go to develop referencing skills.

In this subject you will gain insight into major transition points in the health and equity of populations globally, determinants of health, the principles of public health, and current and future challenges for public health. You are introduced to the diverse disciplines contributing to the organised effort in public health and the vital role of citizens in analysis, advocacy, action, and leadership. Public health successes and approaches to contemporary health issues are explored as well as the intervention methods we can bring together to protect and improve health, prevent and control disease and injury, and reduce health inequalities. These include governance, policy, law and regulation; surveillance and screening; public health education; public health advocacy; environmental change; and social mobilisation. Selected public health frameworks will be used to demonstrate how insights and evidence from multiple disciplines and fields can be combined to detect, describe, analyse and prioritise public health problems, and to design, implement, monitor and evaluate, and adapt responses and solutions.

This subject provides students with an understanding of the role of epidemiology and biostatistics in public health. Students are introduced to the main concepts and methods of epidemiology and biostatistics, sources of population data, and how these are applied to identify and address public health problems. Students will be introduced to statistical software packages and learn how to use these to perform statistical analyses. Students will learn how to interpret the results of key epidemiological and biostatistical tests.

Whether dealing with public health issues or trying to improve the performance of a hospital, many of the issues are complex, seemingly embedded within a web of interconnected and often contested causes. Push on one part of the system and something changes to counter the good work. Complexity is often used as shorthand for intractability. In this subject we consider if systems thinking provides the insights needed to grapple with complexity. Systems thinking is interested in the parts of a system and the connections among those parts, the structures established as a result of those connections and the behaviours those structures allow or discourage. Students examine the notion of systems, as an object of study and a way of thinking that changes the way we might look at health problems and work towards their solution, the language of systems, and its concepts, and some of the methods used to define issues, build consensus for action, and evaluate strategies to address problems.

In this subject you will explore the multi-disciplinary partnerships between public health and social science disciplines, especially sociology and anthropology. Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which cultural beliefs and practices shape population risks for both infectious and non-infectious diseases, and how social factors such as social status, ethnicity and gender impact on health inequalities. This subject will provide you with a solid grounding in understanding different ways in which the social sciences contribute to public health theory and practice.

This subject focuses on understanding the complexity of health care systems around the world through comparing and contrasting their aims and visions, how they are designed, underlying rationales, policies in the context of societal needs and resource demands. The interface between health and politics, economics and social structure will be considered. Students will analyse the comparative advantages and disadvantages of approaches to health care provision in different healthcare contexts. Topics to be covered include principles of health care system design, public and private systems, decentralised health care, centralised control, healthcare financing and national health insurance schemes, and how performance of healthcare systems is evaluated. Themes, issues and trends in health sector reform worldwide are explored.

The public health workforce requires sound knowledge and skills for anticipating and responding to public health risks, disasters and emergencies. This subject introduces you to: the intersection between the environment and health including the physical environment, climate change, environmental sustainability, natural disasters, and pandemics taking account of the politics; the role of public health professionals and managers in anticipating and responding to public health emergencies, surveillance, and risk management; and the four phases of management (mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery). Public health emergencies disproportionately impact some population groups and as such this subject is necessarily underpinned by the concepts of equity and human rights. Furthermore, key to mitigation, response and recovery is effective communication.

The focus of this introductory subject is on the theory and practice of health policy, including health system policy, healthcare policy and public health policy. Students will develop skills to participate competently in the design and critical analysis of policy at a level appropriate to a health policy advisor. The process of policy will be conceptualised in terms of development, advocacy, implementation and evaluation. Key themes are: What is policy? How and when is policy formulated? Who is involved in policy and why? How is policy implemented and monitored? How is policy reviewed, evaluated and improved? Various theories and frameworks that seek to explain the policy making process will be introduced and critiqued. Institutional systems and structures that influence health policy making will be examined. Particular attention will be given to explore the contemporary policy environment and political landscape that influence policy making, and the use of advocacy, evidence and policy instruments for implementing policy. The roles of interest groups in policy process will be explored. Case studies will be used to illustrate key policy issues.

Health promotion is a key field of practice in public health, drawing on a range of scientific disciplines and demanding an understanding of systems thinking. This subject will introduce you to concepts, frameworks and approaches commonly used in health promotion. You will gain skills in how to conceptualise, design and evaluate evidence-informed health promotion programs and strategies.

Advanced Practice

In this subject, students will learn biostatistical techniques and methods required to analyse and draw inferences from health data. Students will be introduced to a statistical software package and will learn how to use this to perform various statistical analyses. The subject covers the analysis of both continuous and categorical data commonly encountered in cross-sectional and cohort designs in public health. Students will be introduced to how to display and visualise data before going on to learn how to compare groups using-tests, ANOVA, and chi-squared tests, and how to test for relationships between two (or more) variables using correlation and linear and logistic regression. We will also look at how to calculate sample size and power estimates.
In this subject, students are introduced to qualitative methods and the opportunities for applying these in the health field. An overview of the research being conducted in health is used to identify the real and potential role of a broad range of qualitative research methods. Processes of qualitative methods are covered, including identifying a research problem, thinking about methodological frameworks, sampling and rigour, collecting data, analysing data, and how to present your qualitative research findings for a thesis, report or academic manuscript.
In this subject you will be introduced to the fundamental aspects of managing health related projects, including the project management life cycle; the functions essential to successful project management; ethical delivery of projects, developing a project management plan; verifying and controlling the project scope; defining, scheduling and allocating resources; and monitoring project quality. Working independently and as a part of a team, you will learn to organise, plan and perform projects, and develop the ethical, critical thinking and interpersonal skills required to understand, analyse, and improve projects.
In this subject, you will gain practical experience, applying analytical and problem-solving strategies to real health care and public health problems using an action learning framework by implementing the project you have designed in PHE5PMH and using the evaluation criteria developed in your research methods subject. You will complete an action learning project directed at improving health by integrating skills and knowledge gained in the postgraduate programs of the School of Psychology and Public Health and deepening skills in reflection, project management, planning and evaluation. The concept of reflective practice is applied and you will have the opportunity to examine their styles and practice, consider their development needs and how they might ensure ongoing learning throughout their careers.
In this subject, you will continue to gain practical experience, applying analytical and problem-solving strategies to real health care and public health problems using an action learning framework by implementing the project you have designed in PHE5PMH, using the evaluation criteria developed in their research methods subject and commenced implementing in PHE5ALA. You will complete an action learning project directed at improving health by integrating skills and knowledge gained in the postgraduate programs of the School of Psychology and Public Health and deepening skills in reflection, project management, planning and evaluation. The concept of reflective practice is applied and you will have the opportunity to examine your styles and practice, consider your development needs and how you might ensure ongoing learning throughout your career.

Applied Research

In this subject, students will learn biostatistical techniques and methods required to analyse and draw inferences from health data. Students will be introduced to a statistical software package and will learn how to use this to perform various statistical analyses. The subject covers the analysis of both continuous and categorical data commonly encountered in cross-sectional and cohort designs in public health. Students will be introduced to how to display and visualise data before going on to learn how to compare groups using-tests, ANOVA, and chi-squared tests, and how to test for relationships between two (or more) variables using correlation and linear and logistic regression. We will also look at how to calculate sample size and power estimates.
In this subject, students are introduced to qualitative methods and the opportunities for applying these in the health field. An overview of the research being conducted in health is used to identify the real and potential role of a broad range of qualitative research methods. Processes of qualitative methods are covered, including identifying a research problem, thinking about methodological frameworks, sampling and rigour, collecting data, analysing data, and how to present your qualitative research findings for a thesis, report or academic manuscript.
In this subject, students enrol in a research project plus thesis equivalent 45 credit points for the MPH, MHA & double degrees (12,500 words). Enrolment is through PHE5THA, PHE5THB, PHE5THC, PHE5THD (each 15 credit points). Students must have enrolled in at least three or four Minor Thesis subjects (depending on their course) as a precondition for thesis submission. Students must be enrolled while they are working on their research and thesis and must be enrolled at the time of submission. The Minor Thesis is supported by a supervisor (to be appointed in consultation with La Trobe staff, as appropriate.
In this subject, students enrol in a research project plus thesis equivalent 45 credit points for the MPH, MHA & double degrees (12,500 words). Enrolment is through PHE5THA, PHE5THB, PHE5THC, PHE5THD (each 15 credit points). Students must have enrolled in at least three or four Minor Thesis subjects (depending on their course) as a precondition for thesis submission. Students must be enrolled while they are working on their research and thesis and must be enrolled at the time of submission. A research supervisor will be negotiated for all students. The Minor Thesis is supported by a supervisor (to be appointed in consultation with La Trobe staff, as appropriate.
In this subject, students enrol in a research project plus thesis equivalent 45 credit points for the MPH, MHA & double degrees (12,500 words). Enrolment is through PHE5THA, PHE5THB, PHE5THC, PHE5THD (each 15 credit points). Students must have enrolled in at least three or four Minor Thesis subjects (depending on their course) as a precondition for thesis submission. Students must be enrolled while they are working on their research and thesis and must be enrolled at the time of submission. A research supervisor will be negotiated for all students. The Minor Thesis is supported by a supervisor (to be appointed in consultation with La Trobe staff, as appropriate).
In this subject, students enrol in a research project plus thesis is equivalent to 45 credit points for the MPH, MHA & double degrees (12,500 words). Enrolment is through PHE5THA, PHE5THB, PHE5THC, PHE5THD (each 15 credit points). Students must have enrolled in at least three or four Minor Thesis subjects (depending on their course) as a precondition for thesis submission. Students must be enrolled while they are working on their research and thesis and must be enrolled at the time of submission. A research supervisor will be negotiated for all students. The Minor Thesis is supported by a supervisor (to be appointed in consultation with La Trobe Uni staff as appropriate).

Health Management Specialisation

In this subject, students are introduced to human resources management (HRM) and the key organisational behaviours in the health sector. In particular, it situates the function of human resource management inside a broader perspective of management theory and practice. The responsibilities of HRM are identified and discussed. We will also focus on how the broader research in organisational behaviour such as effective teamwork can be applied meaningfully to the health sector.

In this subject, students will acquire practical knowledge of current approaches to the management of safety and quality in health care, and the available evidence of their effectiveness. The major theoretical developments of the twentieth century are reviewed, with a focus on their contribution to current methods and tools for quality improvement and quality assurance. Dilemmas in the conceptualisation and measurement of quality are explored, along with the relationship between quality management and clinical outcomes.

In this subject, you will examine the strategic decisions, actions and leadership that determine the success of health service organisations. To achieve this, you will focus on the health care system and organisations from the strategic planning and management viewpoint, as well as covering marketing fundamentals and key components of operations management and research essential for decision analysis. Major issues and trends with an impact on the strategic and operations management of health services organisations will be discussed. This subject is designed for you to use much of the material previously covered in other subjects, as well as healthcare management experience to further develop the skills to deal with real life strategic and operational situations. Practical health services management problems relating to strategic planning and management, marketing and operations management are addressed through group projects and exercises.

In this subject, you are introduced to financial management in health services, in particular, systems of finance and budgeting as applied in healthcare.In addition, we review how non-monetary resources are recorded and explore the methods in which organisations secure and manage resources needed, and the financial implications associated with procurement. We explore the difference between organisational and management accounting.Topics covered include; accounting principles, basic analysis and management implications related to financial data and quantitative performance data, and basic techniques of quantitative decision making and operations research for dealing with health service resource utilization decisions. You are also introduced to costing and casemix funding in healthcare. In addition, we introduce the impact of procurement of goods and supplies by health services, including common procurement methods and an exploration of ethics in procurement, otherwise known as probity.

The aim of this subject is to present an overview of the Australian legal system and legal institutions, and how these relate to health and healthcare. You will be introduced to ethics in public health practice, and to fundamental legal (and ethical) concepts, methods and materials. The subject will provide you with an overview of public health law and other laws affecting the health system and health services. A case-study approach will be used to illustrate the influence of the law on public health and health service provision.

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