POPLHLTH 101 — Health Systems 1

Here’s another review of a first year BHSc paper and the last POPLHLTH one for all of first year!

POPLHLTH 101 is one of the core papers for the BHSc degree in first year offered by the School of Population Health. It’s one of the non-core papers that are taken in Semester 2 alongside HLTHPSYC 122 (and MEDSCI 142 if you’re going for a clinical programme).

This was one of the courses that I took that was affected by the August 2021 lockdown so my experiences are going to be way different compared to other people who took it. Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the content just because it didn’t really have modules that interested me. It was a fairly simple paper though in terms of tests and exams. POPLHLTH 101 also is a good stepping stone into learning about what New Zealand’s health system is like if you are like me and had absolutely no idea.*

*Remember that this is based on my own experience when I took the course in 2021. The course may have changed and you’re definitely not going to have the exact same experience as me!

TL;DR Review

  • Content = 3/5 — I personally didn’t enjoy the content in this paper but a lot of other people really enjoyed it, especially if they were looking at doing Health Leadership or Health Management in later years.
  • Delivery of Lectures/Information = 3/5 — We were moved online after 4 weeks because of the lockdown so I can’t really comment on the later lecturers. I didn’t really find the lecturers in the first half (when we weren’tx online) engaging but maybe that’s just because I didn’t enjoy the content as much?
  • Teaching Staff = 3/5 — Once again, I can’t really comment on everyone but most teaching staff I had to deal with were fine. Not spectacular but not horrible either.
  • Course Organisation = 2.5/5 — Monique is the course coordinator and I’m not really a fan of how she runs her courses. Lots of information is usually missing for assignments and not many resources are given to help us with tests or exams (besides what’s already on the library website). However, she is very quick to respond on Piazza and to her emails so that’s a plus.
  • Assessments = 3/5 — Hated the assignment but the tests were very fair and Richard’s tutorial video (or lecture if you’re in person) will really help manage your expectations for the final exam.
  • Tutorials = 4/5 — They were quite mundane and just covered what happened in lectures with some group activities for your tutorial marks. However, they are very easy to get full marks in and didn’t require any effort at all.
  • Overall = 3.08/5(C+) — This low rating is probably just because I wasn’t a fan of the content or the overall organisation. Everything else was pretty standard, but I do know people who absolutely loved this course so take it as you will.

Assessments and Weighting

  1. Mid-Term Test (Online) = 15%
  2. Essay = 25%
  3. Tutorial Activities = 10%
  4. Final Exam = 50%


The lectures for POPLHLTH 101 are split into five modules taken by four different lecturers. I found some more interesting than others but when we moved online I didn’t actually watch the lectures due to the whackass posting schedule they had. Therefore most of my judgement for lectures will come mostly from content.

  1. Introduction to Health Systems (2 lectures) — This module is taken by the Course Director Dr. Richard Edlin who dives into the basics of what a health system actually is and what they actually do. The first lecture is probably stuff you’ve heard before on how we can measure if a population is healthy. The second lecture is all about the differences between primary, secondary and tertiary care which you would have touched on in POPLHLTH 111.
  2. Health Systems Organisaiton (2 lectures) — These lectures are also taken by Dr. Edlin as a follow-up to the previous module. Here, he will talk about some organisations in health systems, ownership and functions of them. The lectures felt kind of boring and he would just list a bunch of facts at you. However, once I actually had the time before the exam to dissect the content, it wasn’t that bad. I liked learning about how New Zealand’s system actually works and applying that to what I had already experienced (e.g. using ACC, health insurance).
  3. Health System Occupations and Professions (2 lectures) — The next set of lectures were taken by Dr. Annette Dunham, and honestly I think this is where my distaste for this course started. The first lecture was literally just what do doctors do vs. nurses vs. managers. And it’s not like they said exactly what they did. It was more like “doctors like to care for patients and find a cure whereas nurses just care for them”. Like what? I don’t think you can simplify health roles that much. The other parts of the lectures were just about roles in healthcare and how the workforce needs to change to be able to assist patients these days.
  4. The Economics of Health (2 lectures + 1 lecture with 2 films) — These lectures were taken by Dr. Braden Te Ao who seems like a pretty nice guy from what I got to see. Here you will learn about healthcare as a market and why it is not ‘perfect’. The films also explore more into the US’ failures in the healthcare market. I personally did enjoy this section once I had the time to revise it and the films are actually quite interesting (if you get the chance watch it on 2x speed though because they tend to repeat the same things over and over again).
  5. Health System Performance and Funding (2 lectures) — The last module was taken by Dr. Tim Tenbensel who is a familiar name in the School of Population Health. This module is all about knowing where funding comes from for different health systems around the world and comparing them on a scale for performance. Most of the comparisons are things you probably have heard before (e.g. access, equity) so it’s a nice module to wrap things up and see how New Zealand stacks up against other countries.


There is one tutorial per week which basically is just group activities building on the lecture content. Unlike POPLHLTH 111 and 102, instead of working on a big group project, you complete a little activity each tutorial. THESE ARE VERY SIMPLE MARKS so make sure your group doesn’t slack off and gets these done to the best of your ability. The best thing about these tutorials is that even though you might get some things wrong here and there, the 1% mark for each tutorial is based on whether you have properly engaged with the content and have got *most* of it correct. There’s not really much else to add here, but make sure you clarify anything with your tutors during these times, as this is the best time to ask them!


From what I’ve heard, the essay topic changes year to year, so please remember your experience is going to be different from mine! In our year, we had to choose one non-clinical health profession from a list and talk about its role, ownership, function, relationship with other health professionals (clinical and non-clinical) and how integrated health care can assist the development of your chosen role. I ended up choosing health promoters as my role.

Full disclaimer — I absolutely hated this essay. Not so much because I hated the content, but because of HOW UNCLEAR the template they gave us was. The prompts they gave us for 20 mark questions were literally like 5 words, with no extra information at all to help us through it. Now, this wouldn’t be such a problem if they marked us accordingly to the marking schedule, BUT THEY DIDN’T. Many of us ended up ‘misinterpreting’ the questions and losing heaps of marks because the rubric didn’t match up with the questions they were asking. I did try to appeal some of the more obvious misjudgements (e.g. I got a mark taken off for my reference list not being spaced properly even though they wanted it that way???) but the markers were just super unhelpful. I think my best advice is to just ask your tutors what they are looking for in your essay in a way in which they can answer the questions without getting in trouble.

Test and Final Exam

For all tests and final exams in 2021 (besides the four premed papers), they were online either using Canvas or Inspera. This meant that all assignments were open book. As I mentioned in POPLHLTH 102’s paper review, the good thing about the health science papers was even though the tests were made to be open book, they did not change much of the format. Similar questions to previous years were asked in both which made preparation very simple to do.

  1. Mid-Term Test — This was the first time they had a mid-term test, and luckily it was purely short answer. There was a mix of one-word answer questions and longer sentence questions. These were equivalent to Section A questions in past exams, and only cover the first 6 lectures. We were supposed to do this test in person (not sure why), but it got moved online when we went back into lockdown. Luckily for us, they decided not to change the test at all so I think it only took me about half an hour to type things up and do it open book.
  2. Final Exam — The final exam was based on Section B and C questions from previous years. The first 5 questions were medium length, covering all 5 modules. The second section was two essay-style questions, focusing more on Modules 4 and 5. Our questions were slightly more difficult than previous years to compensate for being online, but honestly, there wasn’t even that much of a difference. The final lecture of the course was actually Dr. Edlin talking about how to answer the exam questions and what readings to focus on, so it will definitely help if you attend this!

How I Studied (And How I Should’ve Studied)

Because I was consumed so much by MEDSCI 142, I didn’t really study much for POPLHLTH 101. Therefore, I’ll give you an overview of what I did, and what I would’ve done if I found the content as overwhelming as a premed paper.

To prepare for lectures, I would read the lecture slides the day before and highlight the important key points in them. Learning from what I should’ve done POPLHLTH 102, I then typed up my notes from the lecture slides and then added to them throughout the lecture. If I was doing this course with in person assessments, I would have made flashcards of definitions and statistics we needed to ‘rote-learn’ on Quizlet.

I spent most of the semester break writing my essay, but I totally lacked direction because of the poor instructions I talked about above. I followed the same planning structure as I did with POPLHLTH 102, spending 2–3 days collating information from online literature. I then made a quick bullet point plan covering what I needed to and then wrote a paragraph a day until it was all done. I didn’t ask for help at all which I probably should have done, so email your tutors if you’re completely lost!

I prepared for the mid-semester test by making a Goolge Doc of all the Section A questions from the online exam papers. I would then type up my answers and mark them against my notes. I think this is a still a good strategy if you were doing the in person assessments as they tend to repeat the same questions each year. I used the same technique for the final exam and made sure to read all the important pre-readings, as it actually helped me consolidate the lecture content and think of examples I could use. I think the last module is probably the most you need to rote-learn so spend some time writing flashcards for them. The rest (as long as you know the definitions) is pretty logical so if you are able to form connections and use the past exam papers as a guide, then you’ll be sweet.

Going Psycho(logy)’s POV

When I looked at the content of this paper before Semester 2 even started, I knew I wasn’t really going to be a fan of it. And that’s okay! I think the point of first year BHSc is exposing you to epidemiology and determinants of health (POPLHLTH 111), health and society (POPLHLTH 102) and health care systems which will help you pick your electives in following years. I’m glad that I managed to pick out what I liked and didn’t before I chose my papers for second year.

Looking back on the content after the final exam, I think the paper was a good start into knowing what our health system is like. I really liked how they touched on the announcement about Health New Zealand and getting rid of DHBs without overwhelming us with completely new content. I also really enjoyed Module 4 about health economics (even though I talked a lot of crap of it previously) and Module 5 because I got to see why other health systems are better/worse than New Zealand. The films were also enjoyable to watch as I got to see how bad the US is lol.

My main distaste for the course comes from its organisation. Even before we went into lockdown, I didn’t think this course was particularly well run. While Piazza and emails were answered quickly, sometimes it was unclear what direction we were heading in with assessments (we didn’t get told the first test would be in person until about a week before) and everything finally came crashing down when everyone did poorly in the essay. Hopefully that’s a wake up call for the course to get their act together and they will provide you with better information for each assessment.

And that’s that on POPLHLTH 101! Hopefully I wasn’t too mean about it and it provided you some good insight on what the content is like from an *relatively unbiased* perspective. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at goingpsychology@gmail.com!

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay happy!

Going Psycho(logy) ^.^



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