Skip to main content

Unit information: Essentials of Public Health and Health Improvement in 2021/22

Unit name Essentials of Public Health and Health Improvement
Unit code BRMSM0010
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Kidger
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

This unit aims to introduce students to the ideas and principles underpinning public health and health improvement, including concepts of measuring disease burden, health inequalities, appropriate use of data to inform public health policy and practice, an introduction to screening programmes and the role of national and international public health organisations. The underpinning theories of health improvement, and the key models and interventions utilised at both the individual and population level with be studied, including behaviour change interventions, community development programmes and the use of mass and social media. It will outline the different levels of disease prevention, and will consider the relative merits of both universal and targeted interventions.

Throughout the unit students will be reminded of the wider determinants of health and encouraged to think about the application of public health practice in other (health and non-health) disciplines. Further, the unit will give students an understanding of relevant ethical concepts in relation to health inequalities, public health and health improvement. Students will explore the developments and challenges facing the global public health community in order that they appreciate the immediate relevance of public health issues. Research-led teaching will use case studies in cancer, coronary heart disease and ageing to illustrate the ideas and principles. In-depth knowledge will be developed around particularly pertinent health improvement areas, such as mental health, obesity and substance use, including consideration of life-course approaches to prevention. This unit will provide essential context to the skills and knowledge gained throughout the rest of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  1. Outline determinants of health at the population level, and trends in the global burden of disease
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of and critically appraise data sources and processes for estimating burden of disease
  3. Identify factors which may contribute to, or mitigate health inequalities in relation to public health interventions
  4. Demonstrate knowledge of the bioethical themes and issues studied
  5. Apply knowledge of the major theories and models of health improvement to areas of public health importance and critique different approaches
  6. Describe the wide range of interventions that might be used to improve health at both individual and population levels
  7. Distinguish between universal and targeted interventions, and critique both approaches
  8. Describe a lifecourse approach to health improvement, and identify key public health challenges for different age groups
  9. Explain what a screening programme is, the potential benefits and harms of screening, and the challenges in assessing effectiveness.

Teaching Information

There will be 10 teaching weeks. Teaching will include learning activities set by the tutor including lectures (synchronous and asynchronous), small group work, discussions, individual tasks, and practical activities (face to face or online).

Directed and self-directed learning will include activities such as reading, accessing web-based supplementary materials, critical analysis and completion of assessments.

Assessment Information

Ongoing checks on students’ understanding (e.g. using quizzes, peer-based question and answer, or e-voting) will be incorporated into the teaching and learning material, to provide a means of testing progress as students advance through the unit. We will also use a formative assessment activity as preparation for coursework 1.

Summative Assessment:

Coursework 1: A written assignment will form 70% of the overall unit mark. It will be a 3,000 word essay. Students will be required to choose from a list of health improvement interventions (addressing key topics covered on the course) and write a critique of the intervention. (ILOs 1-5, 7).

Coursework 2: A written assignment (1,500 words) consisting of short answers will contribute 30% of the total unit mark. The exam will consist of short answer questions. (ILOs 1, 6,8,9).

An overall score of 50% will be required to pass the unit.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. BRMSM0010).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.