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Study Public Health at Otago

Make a difference through collective action for a healthier world and Aotearoa.

The University of Otago’s expertise in public health is nationally and internationally recognised.

Learn from inspirational teachers and explore aspects that influence health and health equity, such as housing, climate change, wealth distribution, policies, systems and power, and public health responses to them.

Public health is a diverse and vital area. Issues that influence public health are often changing and knowledge is constantly evolving.

Healthier environments, people, and communities

“This degree teaches you to consider all the elements affecting health and disease; from policy to personal choices … this degree is a springboard for change.”

— Rachel Ngan Kee
BHealSc Student

With a focus on the health of populations and communities, public health looks at how we can prevent and control diseases, prolong life, and promote health.

Public Health involves collective action across sectors and disciplines with a strong focus on reducing ethnic and socioeconomic inequities in health.

You can study Public Health as a major in the three year Bachelor of Health Sciences degree (BHealSc) or as a minor subject in a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Arts (BA), Arts and Science (BASc), Commerce (BCom), Performing Arts (BPA), Science (BSc), or Theology (BTheol) degree.

Make a difference in a rewarding career

New approaches are required as we face diverse and important health challenges.

These include:

  • An increase in the number of older adults and people living with long-term conditions and disability
  • Multiple inequities in health determinants and outcomes
  • Limited health resources
  • Environmental change and its many effects on health

Career opportunities

Graduates majoring in Public Health will have the knowledge and skills to work in a range of areas in the wider health sector, including government and non-government organisations in areas such as hauora Māori, health policy, and health promotion.

Graduates will have the power to change lives by advocating for healthy environments and populations.

Student profile – Rachel Ngan Kee

BHealSc student Rachel Ngan KeeRachel Ngan Kee chose to major in Public Health after enjoying a paper in the subject during Health Sciences First Year (HSFY).

“In hindsight, I had no idea what Public Health entailed but I’m grateful I accidentally found it. Public Health puts a community and context-focused lens on health, which is a refreshing change from other sciences (especially HSFY).

“I think questioning the context of disease is a huge part of prevention and cure. This degree teaches you to consider all the elements affecting health and disease; from policy to personal choices.

Rachel says the classes are inspiring and have changed the way she views society.

“I now have an inherent interest in politics, current events and international news because I know they all affect health in some way. I think having peers and lecturers share their experiences in the health system has opened my eyes to areas that need change in Aotearoa.

“I assumed that all of university would be like HSFY, where you show up to a class with hundreds of other students not really knowing your lecturer or each other and then leaving. But it’s more like a school classroom, where you know everyone in the class and your lecturers make a real effort to know you.

“I think it’s necessary to have a broad understanding of health because it means that when you approach patients or community members you are open to hearing their stories and tailoring their care appropriately. I think patient and community voice is ignored too much in the current health system, and this degree is a springboard for change.”

Postgraduate programme

The University of Otago also a great postgraduate public health programme at our Christchurch, Dunedin, and Wellington campuses. So if you are interested in furthering your study, this is a great option.

The Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health (DPH) is designed to develop public health skills at the postgraduate level. Candidates are required to hold a degree or to have appropriate professional qualifications and experience.

This programme is taught as an internal (on campus) programme at Otago Medical School’s three campuses: Christchurch, Dunedin, and Wellington. It consists of eight 15-point papers, four of which are compulsory and four others selected from sixteen options.

Candidates for the degree of MPH will have completed the DPH, or an equivalent qualification, at an acceptable level of attainment. The course of study will consist of either a thesis, or four DPH papers (not already completed) plus a dissertation.

View further information on postgraduate studies in Public Health.


Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages:

Please note: The Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHealSc) is not the same as Health Sciences First Year (HSFY).

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHealSc) majoring in Public Health

Level Papers Points

HUBS 191  Human Body Systems 1

HUBS 192  Human Body Systems 2

PUBH 192  Foundations of Epidemiology  or  POPH 192  Population Health





PUBH 202  Health Promotion

PUBH 204  Hauora Māori: Challenges and Opportunities

PUBH 211  Epidemiology of Global Health Conditions

at least three of
ANTH 210  Translating Culture  or  ANTH 211  Contemporary Ethnographic Research
CMHC 201  Human Health Across the Lifespan
GEOG 210  Social Geography
PACH 201  Pacific Health: New Zealand and the Pacific Region
PUBH 203  Health Policy and Politics
SOCI 205  Social Inequality
SOWK 236  The Treaty and Social Services






PUBH 303  Public and Global Health: Current Issues

PUBH 304  Rangahau Hauora Māori - Māori Health Research   or  PUBH 311  Public Health Research

at least two of
ANTH 322  Conceiving Reproduction or ANTH 323  Anthropology of Health
CMHC 301  Applied Aspects of Human Health
GEOG 381  Social Geography
PACH 301  Pacific Health: Advanced Applied Knowledge
PUBH 304  Rangahau Hauora Māori - Māori Health Research
PUBH 311  Public Health Research
SOCI 306  Public Sociology
SOWK 304  Kaupapa Māori, and Indigenous Approaches to Social Work






126 further points

The following papers are suggested: BSNS 113, EDUC 105, ECON 112, HIST 107, MAOR 102, MAOR 110, PACI 103, PHIL 105, SOWK 111, STAT 115; ECON 201, HIST 223, MAOH 201, MAOR 202, MAOR 204, MFCO 222, POLS 202, PSME 201, STAT 210, SPEX 205, SPEX 206, ECON 306, ENVI 312, HIST 306, INDS 301, POLS 303, STAT 310

Total   360

Minor subject requirements

Public Health as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BEntr, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

Level Papers Points

POPH 192  Population Health  or  PUBH 192  Foundations of Epidemiology



PUBH 211  Epidemiology of Global Health Conditions



PUBH 303  Public and Global Health: Current Issues*


Two further 200- or 300-level PUBH papers

Note: Students who first enrolled for this minor in or before 2017 may complete the requirements for this minor by passing the following papers: PUBH 192, 202, 203, 211, 311.


Total   90

Note: This minor subject is not available to students majoring in Pacific and Global Health.

Key information for future students

Contact us

Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHealSc) contact details

Contact your local schools’ liaison officer if you're currently at secondary shool.

Or contact the Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHealSc) team:

Tel +64 3 479 7202

Postgraduate contact details


Postgraduate Programme Administrator
Department of Population Health
University of Otago, Christchurch


Public Health Postgraduate Programme Administrator
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
Otago Medical School – Dunedin Campus


Postgraduate Co-ordinator
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington