PBHL20002 - Systems Thinking in Public Health

General Information

Unit Synopsis

Our health is an outcome of a complex social-ecological system of variables including individual characteristics, social factors and environmental drivers. Such systems, by nature, incorporate elements that are uncertain, unpredictable and co-occurring at the same time across different levels and scales. In this unit, you will be introduced to the concept of complex adaptive systems and learn how to apply systems thinking to identify ways in which changes can be made to social and environmental determinants to influence health outcomes at community and population levels. You will also learn to use participatory methods to anticipate alternate futures as a tool for improving public health planning and building resilience.


Level Postgraduate
Unit Level 8
Credit Points 6
Student Contribution Band SCA Band 2
Fraction of Full-Time Student Load 0.125
Pre-requisites or Co-requisites There are no pre-requisites for the unit.

Important note: Students enrolled in a subsequent unit who failed their pre-requisite unit, should drop the subsequent unit before the census date or within 10 working days of Fail grade notification. Students who do not drop the unit in this timeframe cannot later drop the unit without academic and financial liability. See details in the Assessment Policy and Procedure (Higher Education Coursework).

Class Timetable View Unit Timetable
Residential School No Residential School

Unit Availabilities from Term 1 - 2023

Term 2 - 2023 Profile
Term 3 - 2023 Profile

Attendance Requirements

All on-campus students are expected to attend scheduled classes – in some units, these classes are identified as a mandatory (pass/fail) component and attendance is compulsory. International students, on a student visa, must maintain a full time study load and meet both attendance and academic progress requirements in each study period (satisfactory attendance for International students is defined as maintaining at least an 80% attendance record).

Assessment Overview

Recommended Student Time Commitment

Each 6-credit Postgraduate unit at CQUniversity requires an overall time commitment of an average of 12.5 hours of study per week, making a total of 150 hours for the unit.

Assessment Tasks

Assessment Task Weighting
1. Group Work 50%
2. Written Assessment 50%

This is a graded unit: your overall grade will be calculated from the marks or grades for each assessment task, based on the relative weightings shown in the table above. You must obtain an overall mark for the unit of at least 50%, or an overall grade of ‘pass’ in order to pass the unit. If any ‘pass/fail’ tasks are shown in the table above they must also be completed successfully (‘pass’ grade). You must also meet any minimum mark requirements specified for a particular assessment task, as detailed in the ‘assessment task’ section (note that in some instances, the minimum mark for a task may be greater than 50%).

Consult the University’s Grades and Results Policy for more details of interim results and final grades

Past Exams

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Previous Feedback

Term 2 - 2022 : The overall satisfaction for students in the last offering of this course was 95.24% (`Agree` and `Strongly Agree` responses), based on a 21.88% response rate.

Feedback, Recommendations and Responses

Every unit is reviewed for enhancement each year. At the most recent review, the following staff and student feedback items were identified and recommendations were made.

Source: Student comments, co-ordinator observations
Late changes to enrolment disrupted group dynamics for first assignment (where groups are assigned in the first 1-2 weeks of class).
Changes to enrolment are beyond the jurisdiction of teaching staff, but group assignment's content (ie. topic) will be adjusted to make sure students can still complete it in some form if group circumstances change.
Action Taken
A poster presentation was put in place instead of the in-class presentation used in the past. This was more manageable for students, especially those who were doing the unit offshore. This assessment will be maintained in the future.
Source: Student comments
Situation with online learning led to confusion regarding tutorial times for on-campus students changing to online because of lockdown restrictions, versus offshore students and distance students.
For future terms where online sessions are necessary, they will be consolidated into the minimum number needed to meet various sub-cohorts' needs (likely one for students actually enrolled by distance, and at most one for all others).
Action Taken
Two online classes were set up -- one for distance students (all domestic) and a separate one for offshore students who were planning to switch to campus learning when they got a visa. This worked well as the concerns of the two groups were different. This structure will be maintained in the future.
Source: Student evaluation of unit
Lectures should be made available in MP4 form, rather than recorded Powerpoint presentations.
MP4 recordings of lectures should be provided alongside the Powerpoint presentations.
Action Taken
Unit learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:

  1. Explain how complex adaptive systems thinking is used in public health to better understand entrenched health issues related to colonisation, population pressure, climate and environmental changes
  2. Distinguish between different scales and domains identified within complex adaptive systems thinking relevant to public health
  3. Apply complex adaptive systems thinking to public health issues relating to social and environmental determinants of health
  4. Analyse participatory and relational approaches to addressing complex adaptive system challenges in public health
  5. Reflect on and discuss the impact of social practices related to power, leadership and trust on public health from a complex adaptive systems perspective
  6. Determine how complex adaptive systems thinking informs practical and sustainable interventions across scales and domains using asset-based community development and disease prevention models
  7. Evaluate how complex adaptive systems thinking influences approaches to evidence and practice in public health.

Alignment of Assessment Tasks to Learning Outcomes
Assessment Tasks Learning Outcomes
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 - Group Work
2 - Written Assessment
Alignment of Graduate Attributes to Learning Outcomes
Advanced Level
Professional Level
Graduate Attributes Learning Outcomes
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 - Knowledge
2 - Communication
3 - Cognitive, technical and creative skills
4 - Research
5 - Self-management
6 - Ethical and Professional Responsibility
7 - Leadership
Alignment of Assessment Tasks to Graduate Attributes
Advanced Level
Professional Level
Assessment Tasks Graduate Attributes
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 - Group Work
2 - Written Assessment