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Undergraduate Courses

The School of Population and Public Health is pleased to offer the following undergraduate courses, which provide an introduction to some of the foundational principles, ideas, and skills, of population and public health.

In these courses, students:

  • can gain an understanding of patterns and causes of health and disease in different populations, as well as strategies to improve the health of populations, including prevention, treatment, and policy options.
  • will engage students in the broader social contexts of these subjects, in which questions of equity and ethics often rise to the forefront.
  • can gain insight into the healthcare system to pursue careers in clinical roles, such as medicine, nursing, and physiotherapy
  • will be prepared for further study in the area of population and public health, especially for those who wish to pursue careers that involve research in these areas

If you have questions about a specific course, please contact the instructor. For general questions about SPPH undergraduate course offerings, please contact our Senior Education Manager (Lisa McCune) at lisa.m@ubc.ca.

NOTE: Syllabi for all courses are updated as we receive them from the instructors. Please refer to past syllabi for content reference, but understand that room location and times (for example), may be subject to change. If you do not see a course syllabus here, please contact the course instructor directly for more information.

Not all courses listed here are offered every year. Please visit our online schedules (links provided below) to see which courses are currently being offered.

SPPH 300

Working in International Health (3)

SPPH 300 (Working in International Health) is a course on planning/preparing for work in low and middle income countries, concentrating on principles to guide ethical global health. In illustrating these principles, the course engages with basic information on the global burden of disease, its drivers and determinants, and interventions to improve health equity internationally. Health Science background is not essential. The course is restricted to Undergraduate students. SPPH 300 is designed to inspire and inform learners about working in global health. The course will predominantly be conducted with online didactic knowledge transfer and online interactivity with peers, the TAs, and the professors. Students will (with guidance) be expected to work in a cluster of students aggregated around similar interests to outline a particular project, from which they will apply the principles (inclusion, humility, attention to root causes, authentic partnerships, shared benefits and sustainability.) Grades will be based on a combination of the group work and individual assignments.

Term Offered: Term 2

Instructor: Dr. Jerry Spiegel


SPPH 301 (previously SPPH 200)
Understanding the Sociocultural Determinants of the Health of Populations (3)

This course reveals how the conditions in which we live and work can affect our health. Key concepts of social determinants of health in the population that are discussed include: poverty, economic resources, education, policy, neighbourhood conditions, early child development, and access to housing. This is an interactive and thought-provoking course that challenges traditional views on health and disease and allows students to reflect on their own experiences and backgrounds.

Term Offered: Term 1, Term 2


Dr. Martin Guhn (Term 1)

Dr. Amanda Slaunwhite (Term 2)

Term 1 –syllabus

Term 2  – syllabus



SPPH 302
Topics in Health Informatics for Health/Life Sciences Students (3)

This course will help future and current researchers, developers and health professionals understand how to integrate technology and best practices in both clinical and educational contexts.

Term Offered: Term 1

Dr. Adam Kahnamelli




SPPH 381A (formerly 481B)
Selected Topics:  Public Health Ethics (3)

This course addresses ethical issues related to health at a population or community level and interventions undertaken by governments or other social organizations to promote it.

Term Offered: Term 2

Dr. Itai Bavli




Selected Topics:  Environmental Health (3)

The World Health Organization defines environmental health as “those aspects of human
health, including quality of life, that are determined by physical, chemical, biological, social, and psychosocial factors in the environment.” This course will introduce students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds to the field of environmental health. Topics covered will include 1) harmful environmental exposures in water, air, and food (e.g., air pollution, pesticides); 2) aspects of the environment that are beneficial for health (e.g., urban forests, walkable neighbourhoods), and 3) emerging environmental health threats (e.g., climate change, global environmental change). This course will also provide an overview of tools that are used to generate information about the relationship between the environment and health (e.g., epidemiology, risk assessment) and how this information informs public health policy and practice. Students will also have the opportunity to engage more deeply on a particular
environmental health topic of their choosing.

Term Offered: Term 1


Dr. Cecilia Sierra Heredia



Selected Topics:  Canadian Health Policy (3)

This course is about the Canadian health care system and the political and economic forces that have shaped it. It is for anyone, regardless of academic or professional background, interested in the intersection of health care and public policy in Canada.

Term Offered: Term 1 (online)

Dr. Steve Morgan



Work and Health (3)

The majority of adult life is occupied by work. Disability and illness related to work can have a serious impact, both on the individual and on society as a whole. Given the changing nature of work, with the growth of the “gig” economy, precarious work, the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate change, understanding the relationship between our work and health has never been more relevant. This purpose of this course is to introduce students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds to the field of work and health by exploring topics ranging from workers’ compensation through to broader understandings of working conditions, working life and how to create safe working conditions to promote worker health.

 Term Offered: Term 2 (in-person)


Dr. Robert MacPherson




 SPPH 404
Indigenous Health:  Historical Impacts and Contemporary Approaches (3)

This course covers an epistemological approach that considers the social determinants of health and Indigenous spiritual-environmental and cultural perspectives and approaches to health and wellness. It will include lecture, safe space for small and large group discussions, talks from Indigenous health leaders, and applied learning activities. Gain insight on Indigenous peoples’ perspectives on health and wellbeing, analyze the impacts of colonization and related policies on Indigenous peoples, and learn about cultural and traditional healing approaches to health policies, services, and practices. The strengths and resiliency of Indigenous peoples will be highlighted throughout the course.

SPPH 404 – Course Information – Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health

Term Offered: Term 1

Melanie Rivers and Drew St. Laurent

Syllabus (TBD)



SPPH 410
Improving Public Health: An Interprofessional Approach to Designing and Implementing Effective Interventions (3)

By collaborating interprofessionally, each student team will identify and research a critical public health issue, and develop a detailed practical and effective intervention. Restricted to Undergraduate students.

Term Offered: Term 2 (Previously offered in a traditional face-to-face format, this course is now delivered in blended-learning format, combining asynchronous online and synchronouns in-person meetings).

Dr. David Birnbaum



Prison Health (3)

Prison Health aims to educate students from a variety of disciplines to respond to current health
issues within the Canadian correctional system. Through readings, reflective writing, guest presentations
and seminar-style class discussions, students will learn about the complexities of health for people in
prison and will gain understanding and skills in order to apply inter-disciplinary approaches to prison

Term Offered:
Term 2

Dr. Sofia Bartlett





Global Health Policy and Systems (3)

COVID-19 has exposed underlying and persistent weaknesses in our global health system, while presenting new challenges. Key questions have emerged regarding how health systems function, the nature of the global health system, and the factors that lead to health inequities globally and within countries. This survey course will provide students with a comprehensive overview of health policy and systems, exploring the various policies, actions, organizations, and people focused on promoting, restoring or maintaining health. We will take a global and interdisciplinary perspective, drawing primarily on examples from low- and middle-income countries. The first part of the course will focus on comparative health systems, providing students with the analytic tools to understand and compare core aspects of systems such as health service delivery, financing, workforce and supply chain issues. The second part of the course will delve into how health policy gets made, focusing on the key stakeholders in government, multilateral organizations, industry, philanthropy and other sectors, that shape policy and systems. The final part of the course will explore emerging priorities and key debates in global health, such as sustainability and pandemic preparedness. Throughout the course, we will pay careful attention to  contextual factors, such as political, historical and social forces, that influence health inequity. Assessments will include regular reading reflections and quizzes, a class debate, and a term-long group project where students will focus on analyzing health policy and systems in one country. The course would also feature guest lecturers from leading global health experts, particularly scholars based in low- and middle-income countries.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe, analyze, and distinguish differences in the structure and functioning of health systems by using key frameworks and concepts
  2. Explain with examples how economic, political, historical, and institutional factors contributed to the development of health systems in different jurisdictions
  3. Identify key sustainability challenges at global, national, and local levels of health policy and systems
  4. Identify and interpret with examples the role of key stakeholders and contextual factors in shaping health policy processes at different jurisdictional levels.
  5. Apply these skills in an analysis of health systems and policy challenges in a chosen country through a group exercise that has students apply a ‘problems to causes to solutions’ approach.

Term Offered: Term 2 (traditional face-to-face format, with weekly in-person meetings).

Dr. Sian Tsuei

Syllabus – 2023