School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Inequalities and Health (PHCM9626)

PHCM9626 course


There has been increasing evidence to support the argument that differences in health and opportunities for good health are strongly determined by the inequities in social and structural factors in society. The overall aim of this course is to introduce you to major conceptual and practical issues in understanding and addressing health inequalities in western industrialised countries. Specific topics explored will include the patterns of health inequity, the political and structural causes of inequities, and actions to address health inequities presented through case studies of effective interventions.

Credit points

This course is an elective course of the Master of Public Health Program, comprising six units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program.


Whilst there are no prerequisites for this course, prior completion of core courses including epidemiology and health promotion is recommended.

Mode of study

This course is offered in Internal mode with face-to-face classes on-campus.

The course is taught through a combination of lectures and small group work in a three day workshop. Where possible case studies are used to provide practical examples of patterns of health inequality, their causes and what can be done to address them.  Attendance each day at the 3-day workshops is compulsory.

Course aim

The aims of this course are to 1) describe inequalities in health, 2) identify determinants of inequalities and inequities in health and 3) explore actions to reduce or eliminate inequities in health. This course applies learnings to the Australian context.

Course Outcomes
By the end of the course you should be able to:
  • Define and discuss key concepts of equity, inequality and related terms.
  • Describe common patterns of health inequality in western industrialised countries.
  • Identify and discuss common issues in the measurement of socio-economic position.
  • Identify and describe common theoretical frameworks to explain health inequalities.
  • Apply these frameworks to explain one identified pattern of health inequality.
  • Describe common approaches to addressing health inequality.
  • Distinguish between actions that have been taken to reduce inequality, actions that have been taken to reduce health harms associated with inequality, actions that have been taken to prevent health inequality from arising in the future.
  • Identify, analyse and synthesise your understanding of at least one pattern of health inequality and its causes, and then apply these understandings to planning and implementing an action to reduce the inequality or to influences its determinants.
Learning and teaching rationale

The course has been designed to build on and integrate knowledge that students have developed in a number of core subjects including epidemiology and health promotion and elective subjects such as Community Development. It draws on theory and evidence from many disciplines including epidemiology, psychology, sociology and political science. Students are encouraged to draw on what they have learned in other courses to help develop their understandings of health inequalities. Because so much of our understanding of the causes of health inequalities and what we think should be done to address them is based on our values, beliefs and assumptions there are no “right answers” to many of the questions that you may have or which are posed throughout the course. The course aims to develop your critical thinking skills so that you can be clear about your views and the values and beliefs that underpin these views.


Attendance and Participation at Workshop
Weighting: Compulsory

Assessment Task 1
Weighting: 50%
Length: 2500 words

Assessment Task 2
Weighting: 50%
Length: 3000 words

Readings and resources

Learning resources for this course consist of the following:

  • Course notes and readings
  • A three day face-to-face on campus workshop
  • Lectures slides (posted in Moodle)