POPLHLTH 102 — Health and Society

Going Psycho(logy)
12 min readNov 2, 2021


Welcome to my first paper review for a BHSc course only paper! And it’s a sadly neglected one as well…

POPLHLTH 102 is one of the core papers for the BHSc degree in first year offered by the School of Population Health. However, it is not a premed course (often referred to as ‘non-core’ papers) and does not count towards your final GPA for getting into MBChB or BPharm after first year.

I fell into the trap of neglecting this paper as I was trying to focus on the pain I was experiencing from BIOSCI 107, CHEM 110 and POPLHLTH 111. However, from the lectures that I did go to and the learning that I did, I really enjoyed all of the content. It was a nice break from the sciences and made me understand why there were health disparities and what measures have been put in place to try stop these gaps from widening. It also had a lot of overlap between POPLHLTH 111 which helped in my learning for both.*

*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 = 5/5 — I absolutely adored the content in this paper as it was all pretty logical yet interesting at the same time.
  • Delivery of Lectures/Information = 4.5/5 — I only took half a point off for the lectures I didn’t go to lol. The lecturer(s) make the classes really engaging by relating the content to their own experiences.
  • Teaching Staff = 4.5/5 — Dr. Rob McNeill is a little trooper for taking most of the lectures by himself. He was 100% relatable, into what he was teaching and brought along special guests that kept things interesting. Monique isn’t really my favourite course coordinator but she is really nice, and all the tutors that I talked to were amazing as well!
  • Course Organisation = 3/5 — Monique is known for not really organising courses too well and this definitely falls into the same trap. Have fun trying to figure out when things are do and what you’re actually supposed to be doing for assignments!
  • Assessments = 4/5 — The actual assessments themselves were not difficult at all but I think some of it was just poorly organised as we didn’t know what we were supposed to do for our group activities or essay for weeks. Also the marking of the final exam can be quite harsh but the questions themselves are 100% fair.
  • Tutorials = 4.5/5 — Half a point is taken off just because of overall organisation. However, the tutors are super nice and it’s easy to do well in your marked activities for these.
  • Overall = 4.25/5(A) —The content you’ll learn from this course are things that will stick with you because of the way Rob and the other lecturers teach. You’re in for a good time (if you can relax a bit from your premed courses!)

Assessments and Weighting

  1. Mid-Term Test (Online) = 15%
  2. Essay = 20%
  3. Tutorial Activities and Presentation = 15%
  4. Final Exam = 50%


Unlike all the other courses you will take throughout your first year of BHSc, there are no modules in POPLHLTH 102. I’m not really sure what the reasoning behind this is but it doesn’t really affect much. There are one 2-hour lectures per week. Most lectures are taken by Dr. Rob McNeill but from time to time he will bring in guest lecturers. To be honest, I didn’t go to many of the in person lectures because of how full on the first semester was. However, the ones I did go to ended up being my favourite lectures of the whole semester so I would strongly recommend going to all if you can!

  1. Introduction — This is just your basic introductory lecture about how the health of a population are related to social factors, particularly in the obesity epidemic. Nothing too special here.
  2. Models of Health and Inequalities & Inequities — Here you will learn about the Medical Model of Health vs. the Social Model of Health (something you’ll learn about in many different forms throughout the year). The second half of the lecture is all about the difference between inequalities and inequities, and how societies may use rationing to try and divide resources.
  3. Explanations for Social Inequalities in Health and Socioeconomic Status — The first half of the lecture is focused on how health professionals explain the social inequalities in health, broken up into four factors. The second half focuses on the socioeconomic status of different groups and how this affects their health outcomes.
  4. Socioeconomic Status — Lecture 4 builds on the concepts that you learnt in the previous lecture and highlighting how big of an issue SES actually is in health.
  5. Reducing SES Inequalities in Obesity — I’m not entirely sure if you’ll get this lecture again (depends on what your essay topic is) but it’s an interesting one nonetheless. In this lecture you’ll apply the concepts you learnt in Lectures 3 and 4, and discover how the food industry can be drivers of SES inequalities. It was actually quite shocking to see how some of my favourite brands were trying to get us to eat more and targeting certain groups.
  6. Working in the Maori World: Visualising Home(less)ness — This lecture was taken by guest lecturer Dr. Shiloh Groot and unfortunately, this is where I stopped going to POPLHLTH 102 for sometime (I blame the BIOSCI 107 and POPLHLTH 111 tests). This lecture was all about why Maori were more at risk of being homeless and what implications this has on their health.
  7. Gender and Age Related Inequalities — Using the explanations for health that you have learnt, this is applied in a gender and age-related context to explain why some groups are more at risk for certain diseases than others.
  8. Disability and Inequality in Mental Health: Can Digital Technology Help? — The first half of this lecture talks about how disability is viewed by society over time and how it can be explained using the normal explanations that you have already been using. The second half of the lecture was taken by Dr. Karolina Stasiak, and let’s just say I’m pretty bummed about missing this one in person. The lecture was about how young people are at risk for depression and how digital interventions like Sparx are helping people take control and learn more about mental health. People were talking all about it for like a week and I was pretty mad at myself for not dragging myself along for that lecture.
  9. Mental Health and Diversity — After the disappointment of missing the week before’s lecture I made sure I was up bright and early to go to Week 9’s lectures and honestly, I think it was my favourite lecture of the whole year. For the first half, Rob talked about the history of mental health and diagnosis which I found super interesting because mental health was so taboo back in the day. He even gave a personal story that basically made me cry for the first time in a lecture theatre (and probably not the last). Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Philip Patston took over the second half of lectures and basically stole the show. He was so funny and relatable, yet inspirational that I think he was also a driving force behind me wanting to do clinical psychology. I would 100% recommend Googling him right now and his Ted Talk. You won’t regret it.
  10. Ethnicity — Similar to the previous lectures, by using the explanations for health inequalities, you will apply this to why ethnicity plays a big role in health and society.
  11. Social Marketing for Pacific Peoples in New Zealand and Globalisation and Health — After keeping up my good track record for two lectures, I gave up and didn’t go to the last two whoops. These lectures were taken by Dr. Amanda Dunlop and Dr. Judith McCool, respectively. In the first half, you will learn about how companies market towards vulnerable communities and why it’s important to educate them so that can stop being taken advantage of. The second half is about how globalisation has driven health and some of the advantages and disadvantages of it. I don’t even think they tested on any of these concepts so I think this lecture is safe to give a miss if you’re feeling burnt out like I was.
  12. Course Wrap-Up — The final lecture for this course is basically just revision for the final exam. However, I strongly recommend either going to the lecture or watching it back later because Rob drops some super helpful hints for the exam (a.k.a. the entire essay question). I kinda felt bad for not going because he was such a sweet guy and I wanted to say thanks to him for being such a great lecturer. Oh well :’)


There are 12 tutorials each week, with most of them focusing on working on a group assignment. The other three are introducing the essay assignment, and revision for the mid-term test and the final exam.

In our year, the group assignment asked us to do a literature review and presentation about a certain topic that has clear inequalities between different groups in New Zealand. Very very confusing and I’m pretty sure even the tutors were confused at some point. The instructions and marking rubric weren’t very clear either. However, the tutors will try and answer as many questions as possible, and the tutorials themselves build on top of one another so you have some sort of final product in the end. Once you’ve sort of started and you can ask your tutor for feedback, it’s really easy to get full marks in. I absolutely loved my group for 102 and most of us remained friends to get us through the second semester hehe.

I didn’t go to the revision tutorials but all the other ones I went to were fine. Our group decided that it was best to do as much work as we could in the one hour time slot and then just fix up a presentation the weekend before we were going to present and practice individually. It worked quite well for all of us as we were pretty stressed out with the other courses. My advice is that communication in group projects is absolutely key for success. Oh and most of the tutors I spoke to were super nice and helpful so that’s a plus.


In our year, we only had one essay assignment due whereas in previous years, there was 2. I’m pretty sure that the course will stay almost the same as it did for my year however the topics for the essay may have changed. In my year it was about obesity and its explanations for health. While there wasn’t much guidance given from tutorials or Canvas on it, if you are able to relate the explanations of health to a context given in class, you are already on the right track.

I think that this essay was marked pretty fairly and it was actually a pretty interesting topic to write about in general. Previous years have had a similar question but have focused on other health issues like smoking.

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. The good thing about the health science papers was even though the tests were made to be open book, this did not change the format of them at all. Similar questions to previous years were asked in both which made preparation very simple to do.

  1. Mid-Term Test — This test is purely short answer questions and 2021 was actually the first time the course had something like this. The questions were very similar to Section B questions in past exams and only covered the first 6 lectures. This will probably be the first test you’ll ever do in uni, but I think it’s a good one to ease you into them before the premed papers hit you like a ton of bricks.
  2. Final Exam — The first section of the online exam was questions based on Section B in past exams. And by ‘based’ I mean some of them were word-for-word. That’s why it’s pretty much essential to use practice papers in this course to succeed. You’ll also get a longer essay style question, similar to those asked in Section C. The nice thing about Rob is that in the last lecture, he’ll basically tell you most of the aspects of your essay question which gives you time to prepare an answer and work on it as part of your revision for you to replicate in the final exam.

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

I definitely slacked off a lot in this paper, which wasn’t really the ‘be all end all’ for me because I found the content logical and easy to remember (assisted by the fact all our assessments were open book). However, this may not be the case for you. Therefore I’m going to give advice based on how I would’ve studied if this was equivalent to a premed course and all assessments were closed book.

For lectures, I would use the day before to read the lecture slides and highlight important key points, similar to how I did for POPLHLTH 111. I think during the lectures, I should have typed up my notes on a Google Doc for each module (similar for what I did for POPLHLTH 101 and HLTHPSYC 122 the following semester) and then made flashcards on stuff that needed to be ‘rote-learnt’ like trends shown in diagrams and definitions.

When the essay assignment was released, I spent a good 2–3 days collating information about the topic from lectures and online literature that would really focus my argument. I made a quick bullet point plan that covered everything the marking schedule was looking for, and then tried to find literature that matched it. This can take a bit of time so I strongly recommend dedicating a non-busy (i.e. not many lab) weekend to it. I then tried to write at least a rough draft of a paragraph per day and do a final check of everything the week it was due.

To prepare for the mid-semester test, I practised by using the Section B questions from the online exam papers. I made a Google Doc collating all the relevant questions that could be asked and practised answering them alongside my friends. If this was going to be assessed in person, I would type/write my answers first, before giving them to my friends to mark or looking at my lecture notes. Just remember to think logically about each question and why things in society are the way they are (construct a mental flow diagram!).

For the final exam, since we already had a good idea of what the essay topic was, I practised writing one straight away before the premed exams started. That way it was still fizzling in my brain and I had a week to prepare for the rest of the exam. The good thing about POPLHLTH 102 is that they love to reuse past exam papers, so spend the time going through them and noticing what they like to ask! This is probably not the way to study, but if I was doing this exam in person, I would spend the time committing these ‘mini essays’ to memory, or at least key concepts/phrases that I would use to consolidate similar arguments. I used to do this for history by breaking down my essays into smaller chunks that would help me get my point across the most, so if a similar approach works for you, then go for it! Otherwise, be a good student and actually revise the content if you’re struggling with it.

Going Psycho(logy)’s POV

I honestly think that most of the content from this paper should replace POPLHLTH 111’s content. I feel like actually having a good foundation of the inequalities from socioeconomic status and ethnic background is way more important than hanging things on the GATE frame and will help you more in a clinical degree to relate to patients.

I definitely wish that I wasn’t so stressed out in Semester 1 so that I could’ve actually appreciated the content that Rob and his guest lecturers taught us, rather than having to skip his lectures. I really think that he’s a gem and I love how personal he got with us — I think it really helps when you have a lecturer that’s so passionate about the subject they’re taking.

My advice to first year BHSc students (especially if you’re taking premed courses) is to use the lectures for this course as a ‘brain break’ while you’re still learning content. It’s like a 2-for-1 deal! You’ll get to hear amazing stories and be inspired as well as learn things you’ll need not only for your assessments, but also things that could help you become a better doctor, pharmacist or whatever health professional you decide to be.

That’s it from me! I hope you enjoyed my review of POPLHLTH 102 as much as I loved reminiscing about it. Remember you can always contact me at goingpsychology@gmail.com if you need anything!

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay happy!

Going Psycho(logy) ^.^



Going Psycho(logy)

Hi! I’m currently a second year BHSc/BSc (majoring in Psychology) student at the University of Auckland. Hopefully you’ll enjoy and learn something from me! ^.^