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  3. Global Health and Human Rights

Global Health and Human Rights (POPH90244)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codePOPH90244
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This interdisciplinary subject provides a grounding for students of public health on the normative content and interpretations of the right to health (and supporting rights). The subject explores the principles and practical applications of a rights-based framework for the health needs of diverse population groups, including children, women, indigenous people, people with mental illness or disability, and refugees and asylum seekers. It engages with contemporary debates and critiques on the credibility, relevance and utility of human rights for health policy and program decisions. It also explores the confronting linkages between rights violations and health harms, as well as rights infringements that improve public health.

The conceptualisation of health as a human right can be traced through the formation of the United Nations, the World Health Organization Charter, and the Alma Ata Declaration on primary health care. More recently, it has underpinned social mobilisation for the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS, of people living with disabilities, and of GLBTI communities and individuals. This subject draws on diverse case studies including issues such as: climate disruption; sexual and reproductive health; conflict and humanitarian emergencies; tobacco control; obesity; access to medicines; nuclear disarmament; and harmful practices. The subject is facilitated by a team of recognised experts in different areas of human rights and health. It aims to demonstrate how rights considerations are relevant and can be useful in any sphere of health policy and practice, and inspire students on the possibilities for further investigation, action and advocacy to advance both global health and human rights.

Intended learning outcomes

  • Apply the ethical and legal underpinnings of human rights concepts to diverse areas of public health in a global context;
  • Interpret the relationships between human rights and health, demonstrating an appreciation of the potential for tensions between and need to balance competing rights;
  • Analyse the human rights dimensions of public health needs and challenges in diverse contexts, and how these relate to: diverse population groups; different types of health conditions; and global issues with important planetary health implications;
  • Evaluate different strategies for incorporating respect for human rights in research methodologies;
  • Apply a consideration of and respect for human rights in the development, implementation and evaluation of public health policies, programs and practices;
  • Demonstrate skills for advocating for public health approaches, policies and practices that are human rights enhancing.

Generic skills


On completion of the subject, students will be able to:

  • Articulate the ways in which human rights relating to age, gender, ethnicity and Indigenous status, society and culture influence health and public health practice;
  • Identify and discuss current public health challenges in global, Indigenous Australian and non-Indigenous Australian communities with reference to human rights.
  • Discuss and reflect on how a human rights approach can facilitate effective communication and decision making occur across public health organisations.


On completion of the subject, students will be able to:

  • Reflect on personal attitudes and beliefs and consider how these impact on decision-making in research and public health practice;
  • Describe how the concepts of human rights, equity and ethics apply to public health practice;
  • Communicate findings from an analysis of public health and human rights evidence, and use these findings for advocacy;
  • Explain and/or plan strategies, informed by a human rights approach, to prevent disease and injury and to protect and improve health (i.e. legislation, policy, and community development).

Application of knowledge and skills

On completion of the subject, students will be able to apply a comprehensive knowledge of human rights to develop solutions to complex public health problems.

Last updated: 24 August 2019