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Living Longer: A Global Diagnosis (UNIB30005)

Undergraduate level 3Points: 12.5Not available in 2019

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Year of offerNot available in 2019
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 3
Subject codeUNIB30005
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Since 1800, human life expectancy at birth has doubled globally and tripled in the most favoured nations. This has been a biological and social achievement of great complexity, and no single factor—public health, income, material resources, medical knowledge, technology, individual behaviour, social organization—can explain this progress in survival. Neither can any one theory or discipline provide a satisfactory account. This will be an interdisciplinary investigation drawing on biology, medicine, epidemiology, demography, history, politics, economics and the medical social sciences. The subject will follow the health transition from the late eighteenth century to the present day, exploring in historical sequence the social interventions, economic changes and advances in scientific knowledge that have enabled increasing proportions of human beings to live longer. It will review critically the roles of public health; medicine; wealth, income and economic development; famine, malnutrition and diet; households and individuals; literacy and education. It will engage students with workshops in interdisciplinary case studies across time and place. Students who take this subject will obtain a rich, interdisciplinary understanding of the complexity of human mortality in social context, and of the reciprocity between biology and culture.
This University Breadth Subject is an exercise in the explanation of complexity i.e. the rise in human life expectancy that is a biological, biomedical, cultural, economic, ecological, political and moral phenomenon, with those elements varying in their explanatory significance over time and place.
It therefore needs to be explored by practitioners of those disciplinary perspectives being seen to work together—as in fact they do in the real world of population health, health delivery and health policy.

Intended learning outcomes

  • To comprehend the complexity of population health and human mortality and morbidity in their socio-economic and ecological contexts;
  • To appreciate the complexity of medical interventions, their delivery, effects and limitations;
  • To demonstrate the multi-disciplinarity of human health and medical care and the interdisciplinarity of the practice of both biomedical care and public health administration and delivery;
  • To acquire a literacy in the application of quantitative and qualitative evidence in socio-medico-economic problems

Generic skills

  • Critical thinking and enhanced literacy across a range of disciplines and the development of written and verbal communication both for scholarly purposes and knowledge transfer
  • Encourage the development of ability to synthesise a wide range of materials
  • Collaborative learning and constructive team membership through tutorial classes and the assessment procedures
  • Effective use of the library and research support services and of information technology for the gathering and assessment of a wide variety of inter-disciplinary materials

Eligibility and requirements





Non-allowed subjects


Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

  • One 500 word tutorial paper (15%)
  • 10 short 'blog diary' entries (20%)
  • a 2000 word research project due in the examination period (50%)
  • Tutorial participation and class blogging (15%)

Dates & times

Not available in 2019

Time commitment details

170 hours

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    James C Riley (2001) Rising Life Expectancy: a global history (Cambridge University Press)

  • Breadth options
  • Available through the Community Access Program

    About the Community Access Program (CAP)

    This subject is available through the Community Access Program (also called Single Subject Studies) which allows you to enrol in single subjects offered by the University of Melbourne, without the commitment required to complete a whole degree.

    Entry requirements including prerequisites may apply. Please refer to the CAP applications page for further information.

  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 11 October 2019