Master of Public Health

Course information
  • Entry requirements
  • Units of Study
  • Career options
  • Student support
Entry requirements

Entry requirements

To apply for the online Master of Public Health, you are required to have:

  • Completed an Australian Bachelor degree (or equivalent) in any discipline OR
  • Completed an Australian Graduate Diploma (or equivalent) in a similar discipline OR
  • Applicants without an undergraduate qualification may be admitted to the Graduate Diploma based on approved work experience. Upon completion of the Graduate Diploma, graduates will be eligible for admission to this course with credit granted for completed units. 

Students may choose to exit after completing 8 units in the course, in which case they may graduate with a Graduate Diploma in Public Health.

Units of study

Units of study

VU Online’s Master of Public Health, with two specialisations in Health Promotion and Global Health Leadership, is designed for professionals passionate about influencing positive change in public health through gaining the skills to tackle current and emerging issues in local and global contexts. Each unit of study lasts for seven weeks.

For more information about the units of study, download a brochure.

Core units

Foundations of Public Health - Unit code: HMG7100

This unit is designed to introduce students to the main theories, principles and values of public health illustrated by selected major topics in nutrition and in active living from a global perspective. It investigates policy, systematic and multi-discipline public health approaches as a global and local effort to address contemporary health challenges. The origins and evolution of public health and major global achievements in public health and their impact on the health of populations are explored. The role and interface of political, cultural, social, behavioural and environmental determinants of health of populations informs critique and discussion throughout the unit.
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Epidemiology and Biostatistics 1 - Unit code: HPO6001

The disciplines of Epidemiology and Biostatistics provide the foundation for designing studies to better understand the distribution of exposures and outcomes among specific population groups, and work to identify the causal nature between these. In this subject, you will be introduced to the basic principles, concepts and skills of descriptive epidemiology and related biostatistics. You will learn how observational data are collected and analysed using statistical methods and communicated to a variety of audiences. These skills will enable students to evaluate existing epidemiological studies, and undertake basic epidemiological analysis using biostatistical approaches.
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Public Health in Practice - Unit code: HMG7200

This unit explores how public health theories, principles and values have informed the practice of public health with a focus on program planning for health promotion. The origins and purpose of health promotion and the theories which inform health promotion practice are examined along with the potential of health promotion to positively influence the determinants of health and reduce health inequalities. You will gain skills in a range of practical approaches and methods for promoting health. You will use a project management cycle to assess needs, set priorities for action and plan and manage interventions that promote health in populations. Theoretical aspects of the unit will be reinforced through their application to local, national and global issues in nutrition and active living.
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Culture and Society in Public Health - Unit code: HMG7220

This unit examines the contribution of the social sciences in understanding and improving public health. The influence of culture and society on beliefs, attitudes and behaviours around health and how these shape disease risk and health outcomes are critically appraised. You will explore the complex relationships between gender, culture and health inequalities. The efficacy of policies and strategies to address such inequalities will be evaluated. Concepts of cultural competence and its relevance to public health practice and cross-cultural communication models are examined to facilitate enhanced professional practice when working with diverse communities.
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Epidemiology and Biostatistics 2 - Unit code: HPO6002

This unit builds on Epidemiology and Biostatistics 1 to expand on students’ understanding, application and interpretation of fundamental epidemiologic and biostatistical concepts. Students will develop the capability to identify, differentiate, select and apply biostatistical concepts as appropriate and interpret the output of biostatistical tests. This capability will enable students to critically analyse epidemiological studies and identify the strengths and limitations of epidemiological approaches. This unit explores study designs, including cross-sectional studies, and nested studies, and natural experiments to analyse and describe causality using observational data. You will describe the determinants and causes of significant population health problems. You will also learn to identify and differentiate sources of bias and approaches to reducing bias or undertaking sensitivity analyses to better understand the impact of bias. The unit provides you the opportunity to use statistical software programs to conduct biostatistical analysis of data.
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Promoting Health in Policy - Unit code: HPO6003

This unit explores policy tools and regulatory mechanisms that can be used to make decisions to address the social determinants of health and by doing so promote efficient and equitable gains in population health. Students will compare and contrast health policy with ‘healthy’ policy to highlight the critical leadership role of the health sector in promoting health in all policies. The unit explores how global and national frameworks and commitments such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) inform public policy formulation and decision making. Students will examine the policymaking process in detail including how to frame a policy issue based on evidence, how to facilitate whole of society approaches, how to formulate policy through negotiation and advocacy, how policy is implemented and enforced through regulation and legislation and how policies are evaluated and reviewed. Students will also interrogate the politics of policy development and how politics and power influence policy decision making and funding.
There will be a focus on strategic international human resource management and the issues facing organisations that operate in the international environment.
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Systems Thinking in Public Health - Unit code: HPO6004

Systems thinking is a way of understanding and managing complex problems. This unit examines how systems thinking approaches, methodologies and tools can be used to understand and find solutions to complex health problems to improve population health and health equity. The challenges and opportunities of using systems thinking in real-world settings are examined considering the different levels and ways systematic approaches can be used in the practice of public health. The concept of systems thinking in health system strengthening is also explored. Students will use systems thinking methods and tools including participatory modelling, causal loop and stock and flow diagrams to analyse problems, integrate multiple perspectives and to propose strategies and policies to address complex health problems.
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Public Health Program Management - Unit code: HPO6005

Health planning and evaluation are part of the ongoing cycle of development, improvement and adaptation in public health program management. A  public health project  represents a single, focused action in public health. A  program is  a collection of projects that complement each other to assist the program in achieving its overall objectives. This unit examines the principles, frameworks and methods in planning, implementing and evaluating public health programs and projects. It also explores how public health program management is used to improve population health by addressing the social determinants of health. Students will apply concepts and approaches of systems thinking, human rights, and capacity building and participation in the program management cycle. Using case studies students will use program management methods and tools to effectively design, manage and evaluate public health programs. This unit is underpinned by the use of evidence-based program management and the importance of aligning program management with global and national policies and commitments.
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Specialisation (Health Promotion)

Innovative and Evidence-Based Health Promotion - Unit code: HPO7008

This unit expands student’s capacity to build substantive practical skills and theoretical knowledge required to become the next generation of health promotion professionals prepared to ensure currency and sustainability in health promotion actions. With attention on modern socio-ecological approaches to disease and injury prevention and health promotion interventions locally, nationally and globally, students will utilise creative methods to navigate health promotion priorities and approaches to promotion to formulate innovative and evidence-based health promotion programs and projects. Recognising that health promotion enables people to increase control over their own health, students will appraise and apply approaches to community engagement and cultural considerations with a strong focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
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Social Media and Social Marketing Approaches to Health Promotion - Unit code: HPO7009

This unit equips students with the knowledge and skills to navigate challenges associated with contemporary social media and social marketing concepts and theories, and provides the tools to implement health promotion programs which have integrity, focus and ability to reach diverse populations. Through critical analysis of current local, national and global social marketing platforms used for health promotion, students will address the legal requirements, health literacy considerations and traverse the balance of technology, content design and delivery in order to construct innovative and effective health promotions. The strategies of social marketing, analysis, planning, execution and evaluation in health promotion will be critically reviewed. Through examination of behavioural theories to guide social media health promotion programs, students will be supported to utilise the project management cycle to create online health promotion strategies.
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Global Contexts of Health Promotion Practice with Diverse Populations - Unit code: HPO7010

This unit challenges students to propose health promotion strategies designed to further drive change and impact across the social and ecological determinants of health. Students will build health promotion development skills through interrogation of health promotion approaches with vulnerable and diverse populations across the globe. This includes debate focused on the politics and policies which both support and hinder global health promotion strategies. Through a comprehensive critique of leaders in global health promotion and analysis of the strategies implemented to address contemporary global health challenges, this unit entails critical analysis of the health promotion strategies to realise the Sustainable Development Goals. Through cross examination of authentic health promotion actions in global disasters and pandemics, students will gain skills and knowledge to enable innovative, coherent and realistic approaches to advocate for change in global health.
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Professional Project - Unit code: HPO7004

In this unit, students will complete a professional project in public health that will consolidate their public health training. Students are required to participate in a number of key phases and activities of a public health program or project and write a major report that outlines the processes and outcomes of the project. The project requires the application and integration of students accumulated knowledge and skills acquired within the Master of Public Health.  The major report draws particularly on models and methods of scientific inquiry provided in the Master of Public Health. 
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Specialisation (Global Health Leadership)

Global Health Leadership - Unit code: HPO7001

This unit provides students with the skills to lead public health projects, programs, networks and organisations globally. Students will examine the contextual challenges facing leaders in global health by utilising a leadership process of scanning the environment, establishing a direction and influencing people to overcome challenges and achieve goals. Students will exhibit leadership skills needed to engage with local, national, and global stakeholders and organisations to design and implement effective global health programs. This unit critically examines the basic functions and principles of leadership, governance and management to co-create a vision, empower others, foster collaboration and share decision making. Students will demonstrate and apply negotiation and mediation skills to address global public health challenges and apply strategic principles of ethical reasoning and professional practice to advance health equity and social justice globally.
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Global Health Economics and Finance - Unit code: HPO7003

This unit explores the concepts of health economics and finance in global health contexts and systems. Students will first define and distinguish between economics and finance and explore key concepts and tools in each. This will enable students to understand the role of economics and economic evaluation in decision-making within the context of global health. Students will also examine funding mechanisms in local, national, and global settings as well as the importance of financial and budget planning and management in applying for and utilising funding. This unit will also develop students’ skills to critically evaluate funding metrics as well as economic cost analysis and national and global health perspectives and priorities in public health funding. Students will examine and analyse economic implications and financial operations of global health initiatives.
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Global Health Systems and Decision Making - Unit code: HPO7002

In a world where various sources and types of information and data are readily accessible, and burdens on global health systems and organisations are complex, informed decision making is critical. This unit explores systems thinking and frameworks and tools of evidence-based decision making needed for a dynamic global health landscape. The unit examines the contextual challenges facing health leaders, seeking to develop a deep personal understanding of leadership as a complex process of scanning the environment and setting the direction, and achieving organisational goals through influencing people both inside and outside the organisation. Students will also learn how to communicate evidence to influence decision-makers and impact policy and prioritise public health programs and resources globally.
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Professional Project - Unit code: HPO7004

In this unit, students will complete a professional project in public health that will consolidate their public health training. Students are required to participate in a number of key phases and activities of a public health program or project and write a major report that outlines the processes and outcomes of the project. The project requires the application and integration of students with accumulated knowledge and skills acquired within the Master of Public Health.  The major report draws particularly on models and methods of scientific inquiry provided in the Master of Public Health. 
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Career options

Roles in public health are diverse and in high demand. They cover areas of health promotion, disease prevention and policy. Depending on your career goals and skill set, studying the Master of Public Health course with VU Online will open up numerous roles that may interest you.


Global Health Leadership

  • Disease Preparedness Researcher
  • Disaster Preparedness Coordinator 
  • Infection Preventionist 
  • Health Informatics Specialist 
  • Communications Manager
  • Health Administrator 
  • Senior Advisor - Health
  • Policy Advisor - Health

Health Promotion

  • NGO Manager 
  • Health Promoter
  • Public Health Researcher
  • Community Health Promoter 
  • Public Policy and Strategy Consultant
  • Health Educator
  • Health Promotion Research Coordinator 

Other roles in this field include

  • Public Health Medical Officer
  • Lecturer in Health
  • Medical/Health Advisor
  • Program Officer
  • Communicable Disease Analyst 
  • Project Officer
Student support

Student support

VU Online provides you with the support you need, when you need it, throughout the course. With four layers of student support, our goal is to ensure you succeed in your studies.

Our highly experienced academics understand how to deliver a quality online learning experience and are highly responsive and accessible.

You will also have access to a dedicated Student Success Advisor, who provides motivation and one-on-one personalised assistance with non-academic matters for the duration of the course. You will experience the support of a community through chat, virtual seminars and discussion board activity. Your support network is only a phone call or email away.