POPLHLTH 111 — Population Health

I love POPLHLTH 111 more than Rod hates butter (iykyk). There, I said it.

Are we ready for probably my most controversial post yet? Keep reading if you’re interested or getting ready to roast my poor taste in core papers.

POPLHLTH 111 is the only ‘non-science’ core paper of the Biomed/Health Science bunch. It’s a paper from FMHS, more specifically the School of Population Health.

This is probably the paper in which most people from Biomed (and more rarely, Health Science) say they hate the most. However, it is actually really really straightforward and easy to do well in if you have the knack for it. I personally loved this paper as it gave my poor brain a break from learning pointless BIOSCI 107 facts and formulas for CHEM 110. I know it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but I felt as though this paper seemed to most directly relate to working in the health workforce out of the Semester 1 core papers. This was also my best paper out of the cores so let’s just say I’m a teensy weensy bit bias.*

*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 = 4/5 — Most of the content you learn in POPLHLTH 111 is stuff you’ve never done before so you’re starting off completely fresh.
  • Delivery of Lectures/Information = 3/5 — I think it really depends on who the lecturer is. They all seemed to ramble on a lot but most of it is pretty relevant to working in the health workforce.
  • Teaching Staff = 4/5 — Special s/o to the King Rod Jackson and Queen Roshini. I can’t really comment on Dan or Dennis but they seemed fine from what I saw.
  • Course Organisation = 3/5 — Definitely could be a lot better. The Canvas page is pretty terribly organised and hard to find things (e.g. they don’t put recordings in the recordings tab sometimes).
  • Assessments = 4.5/5 — These were really fair and no big surprises which was nice. The marking for assessments for tutorials and final exam can be quite nit-picky (depending on who marks your stuff) so just make sure you nail all the main points.
  • Tutorials = 5/5 — They’re scheduled for 2 hours but honestly if your tutor is onto it, you can leave within an hour. All of these are assessed but luckily tie into the lecture content quite nicely. Also, all the tutors are really lovely and are always willing to help you out. Make sure you get to know your group and have fun!
  • Overall = 3.9/5(B+) — I think this course depends on where your strengths lie and whether you enjoy the content or not. But appreciate it for the nice break it gives your brain!

Assessments and Weighting

  1. Mid-Term Test = 20%
  2. Quizzes = 6%
  3. PBL Workshops/Tutorials = 24%
  4. Final Exam = 50%


The content for POPLHLTH 111 is split into 4 modules taken by four different lecturers. Everyone in this course is starting POPLHLTH from the basics since it’s not really a subject taught in high school, so every lecturer starts right from the beginning. This can make learning seem quite slow, but trust me — they all teach so thoroughly you don’t even need to revise for the content until you’re being assessed on it. This was also the class I went to the least lectures for because of the significant overlap with POPLHLTH 102. Take that as you will, but make sure you do what’s best for you

  1. Measuring the Distribution and Determinants of Population Health (9 lectures) — This section is taken by Professor Rod Jackson himself (the man, the myth, the legend). Most of it is all to do with basic statistics and how you can use the GATE Frame (enjoy drawing these) to analyse different studies on health. I found this part very straightforward, and a lot of the basic calculations overlapped with statistics in high school. The only problem is that Rod Jackson loves to use countless examples that it can all seem very confusing in one go. However you’re not even tested on these so focus as much as you can on the basic concepts. This is probably the easiest section of them all regardless.
  2. Deciding on the Interventions to Improve Population Health (6 lectures) — This section is taken by Associate Professor Daniel Exeter, Dr. Roshini Peiris-John, the course coordinator Dennis Hsu and guest lecturer Dr. Rhys Jones. In these lectures, you’ll be introduced to the basics of health promotion in a Western and Maori context and how interventions are used to improve the health of the population. A/P Exeter’s lectures overlapped a bit with POPLHLTH 102 so if you take BHSc you may be in luck. The other lectures are quite simple, with a few more calculations you’ll have to learn to do. But don’t worry! They’re quite simple and you get lots of practice of these.
  3. Identify the Determinants of the Determinants of Population Health (9 lectures) — Confusing and very long name for a module. Once again, A/P Exeter, Dr. Peiris-John and Dennis take this module together. Papaarangi Reid also teaches one lecture about Maori Health (she is a very scary woman, hold your breath during the lecture). You also may get a special guest lecturer (I won’t spoil who it is, but let’s just say you probably see him on the news a lot). Most of this is about understanding socio-economic position and other determinants that lead to health inequities. Tbh, I didn’t go to any of lectures (except for the guest lecturers) because it overlapped a lot with POPLHLTH 102. This wasn’t really a bad decision, but I think if you are to follow this approach, definitely read the slides as a minimum to make sure you know what content is separate from 102. ALSO GO TO THE BIG DATA LECTURE. This was my mistake and it ended up being a big part of the exam so I crammed it oops.
  4. Deciding On Interventions To Improve Population Health (7 lectures) — The last block of lectures are mainly taken by Dr. Peiris-John with guest lectures from Boyd Swinburn and Papaarangi Reid. This is a nice module to kind of tie everything together. It takes prior knowledge from the second module and puts it in a more real-life context. I feel like I haven’t touched on how good of a lecturer Dr. Peiris-John is. She’s kind, unassumingly funny and SHE HAS THE BEST SLIDES. She marks the important ones with a star so if you’re running out of time cramming, just look to those and you should be covered.

PBL Workshops/Tutorials

PBL stands for ‘problem-based learning’ and it’s just a fancy way of saying ‘tutorials with a group project’. Each tutorial also has a learning component with different topics to the lectures. These can have a big part in the final exam so make sure you revise these properly!

  1. Age Standardisation (Block 1–2) — This is probably the most maths heavy section of the entire course with a few calculations you need to learn and memorise, then apply in test situations. I spent a lot of my revision time for the mid-semester test going over each calculation thoroughly with practice questions which really helps consolidate this.
  2. Ethnicity Coding (Block 2–3) — This is a very very simple concept where you just tally up the numbers of people who identify with a certain ethnicity and criteria then divide by the total number of people who identify in the same ethnicity group. It’s an easy way to get a lot of free marks in exams
  3. Haddon Matrix (Block 3–4) — This is by far worth the most in exams (even more than lecture content!). In this, you’ll learn how to identify different situations with interventions in a table and be able to relate it to when it should occur in an event. Do a lot of practice with these and ask your tutors whether you’re on the right track!

There are a few parts to these tutorials that are assessed with your group members so it’s in your best interest to try and get those full marks as it is quite easy to do so.

  1. Meeting Minutes/Assessed Activity — Each week leading up to your final PBL project, you’ll have to meet with your group and complete the tasks on the Meeting Minutes sheet. With this, you’ll each take turns to write minutes and lead the meetings so you get your participation marks quite easily. In these sessions you’ll have to practice teaching your assigned MCQ for a class presentation, work on your PBL project and then complete the assessed activity. Make sure you do the latter thoroughly and double check. Unfortunately our group fell into the trap of not checking which cost us some easy marks.
  2. MCQ Teaching — To gain your participation marks, you’ll each take turns teaching an MCQ to the class. These are very very easy so don’t worry and it’s a good opportunity to practise public speaking. These are also often similar to questions you may get in mid-semester test and exam so take it as opportunity for revision as well!
  3. PBL Project — This can either go really really well or really really terribly depending on your group members. However, it is quite easy to gain full marks as long as you follow the rubric. For our year, we had to record a Zoom presentation and watch some of it in class (it’s a very painful experience). Once that’s done you’ll be asked one question by another group and you’ll be assessed on how well your group handles it. They’re quite lenient with this so don’t stress out too much on what people could ask. Everyone gets the same mark for this irrespective of the amount of work they do, unfortunately. But use your group evaluation to roast those who aren’t doing their share (within reason).
  4. Participation Marks/Group Evaluation — This is the easiest 5% you’ll ever get so make sure you do your fair share of work! You’ll also get to evaluate your peers so that everyone gets the marks they deserve.

Unfortunately my group was a bit of a shambles. I often ended up doing a big portion of the work and even though I tried to manage everything, there’s obviously not much I could do to save marks that we lost. It should be a group effort. However, I was quite proud of myself on this sort of ‘character building’ exercise and I even produced a super cute presentation that everyone seemed to like. I have a lot of group tea to spill but perhaps I’ll save that for another post? Like or comment on this post if you’d like to hear more about it!

Some of the slides I made! I was super proud of these ones especially :)


There are 6 MCQ quizzes each with 5 questions that contribute 6% to your final grade. You have three attempts at each with a ten minute time limit. The bad thing about these quizzes is that once you’ve submitted an attempt, you won’t be able to see the questions or answers to them again and you won’t know what you got for each attempt until the grades are released at the end of the week. Luckily, these are quite simple and match quite well to the actual MCQs you’ll get during the mid-semester exam.

Invigilated Assessments

Once again, the nature of doing a premed course strikes again and you’ll have to do an in-person test and exam. There’s no cheat sheets for these so you’ll have to memorise all of the concepts. Don’t worry, because most of these are pretty much common sense, with only a few you’ll have to really rote learn.

  1. Mid-Semester Test — The test is 40 MCQ questions each worth 1 mark. This is a week after the BIOSCI 107 test usually so you won’t have much time to study for it. The content changes from year to year, so for 2021 we had questions on the first module, half of the second module and four questions on age standardisation. The only MCQs that can kind of trick you is Rod’s section so make sure you read those carefully. Otherwise, this is a fairly straightforward test with nothing too surprising if you can internalise the concepts from each lecture.
  2. Final Exam — This is purely made up of short answer questions, with marks for each question ranging from 0.5–5. The questions aren’t necessarily difficult, but you need a good well-rounded understanding of all the lectures. The ‘big money’ questions worth a lot of marks can vary from year to year, but one is usually the Haddon Matrix. Our year also had the COVID-19 and Obesity Epidemic lecture come up a lot.

I did pretty well in both of the tests. However, the POPLHLTH 111 test is often known as the ‘med dream killer’ because apparently it’s quite difficult. I didn’t find this the case but I think it’s probably because the content is way different from the sciences and requires you to memorise some things. However, as you’ll see from my ‘How I Studied’ section, it’s better to think about the big picture.

The only downfall I had in the entire exam was my Haddon Matrix, which was pretty unfair in my opinion because it should be up to what the individual thinks the best interventions are. I’d recommend you go to the drop-in help sessions and speak to your tutors because they’re the ones marking the exams.

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

I probably studied for POPLHLTH 111 the least out of the four core papers, but ended up doing the best on it. I’m pretty sure this is just because how my brain is wired, so I wouldn’t take this approach if you’re not confident in this paper. I also attended the least lectures for it because of the significant overlap between POPLHLTH 102. This probably helped a bit so I could study more for other subjects, but once again, I wouldn’t recommend it. Nonetheless, this is what I did when I did study for POPLHLTH 111.

In the lectures, I would often speed run through them and highlight important information/key terms. Luckily in POPLHLTH, everything you need is on the slides so you don’t have to listen in too closely to what the lecturers are saying. Also, most of the prereadings (except for the ones they tell you will be in the test/exam) are basically useless so don’t read them unless you want to know more about the case studies Rod talks about.

The quizzes are really easy so what I did was go through the lecture content that would be in the quiz quickly, then sit one quiz once it got released. I’d use my next two attempts on the following days so I could see the questions with fresh eyes and use my notes to help me out a bit.

When studying for the first test, I did a bit during the semester break, but left most of my intense studying till after the BIOSCI 107 test (which was the first day back after the semester break). I mostly just went over past practice tests and committed the second module definitions to memory by writing them down without looking and testing my friends. This is probably a super casual way to approach it, especially since the test was considered the hardest of the three mid-semesters during this time. However, I think the main difference between POPLHTLH and the sciences is that the former is pretty much common sense with the questions reflecting this. By having a really good foundation of knowing what’s right and what’s wrong, as well as taking your previous encounters with public health terms and cases (e.g. breast cancer awareness for breast cancer screening), you should have a fair idea of what is going on.

The final exam was the last of 5 really long days of intense studying, BIOSCI 107 and CHEM 110 exams, and crying. I definitely really crammed POPLHLTH in the week leading up to the exam which I don’t recommend for everyone! What I did was do one mock exam to find out what gaps I had and luckily for me, it wasn’t many. I then created super quick flashcards on Quizlet with just the terms and definitions I needed to memorise that weren’t conceptual and ran through those throughout the week. If I was more prepared, I probably should’ve done these a bit sooner but that’s okay because I guess it all worked out. I also created a rough formula sheet of all the calculations I might have to do and practised with any numbers I could find from previous exemplars. Then I went over two more practice exams that I timed to complete and waltzed into my exam.

There was definitely a lot more obesity and COVID-19 stuff that I wasn’t 100% prepared for. However, the good thing about SAQs is that you can bs the crap out of them. For some of the multi-choice questions I took educated guesses and for the other questions I didn’t know I took a gamble in guessing them. I ended up finishing the exam with 45 minutes to spare and took this time to expand on my answers to make sure I had all the correct ideas they may be looking for.

If you’re struggling through the exam, DON’T GIVE UP. The examiners can give partial marks, so as long as you’re on the right track, you can get the points. Make sure you stick to the amount of lines they give you and don’t ramble on too much.

Going Psycho(logy)’s POV

Many people either love POPLHLTH or they hate it, and I can totally see both sides. Lots of people doing Biomed (and even BHSc) choose to follow through a clinical degree because of the application with science and they may not be necessarily prepared for a more ‘humanities’-style subject (especially since NCEA doesn’t force you to take social studies after Year 10).

However, regardless of whether you like it or not, this has the most relevance to you as someone wanting to work in the health sector. You need to be able to understand health inequities and be able to treat patients in a non-judgemental, caring way. POPLHLTH 111 equips you for this and makes you realise that medicine (or any other clinical job) isn’t just about the science, it’s also a lot about the people you encounter and treat.

I personally really enjoyed POPLHLTH 111 as a break from all the sciences we did. I mentioned in a previous post that history was my best subject, and because of learning about the Treaty of Waitangi and the Dawn Raids, I was able to have that background knowledge into why ethnic health inequities exist. I think relating prior knowledge to anything new you’re learning helps you not only grasp new concepts, but also gain an appreciation for what you’re learning. Try approach POPLHLTH like this and you’re sure to enjoy it more. If not, just remember lots of this information may help you for your MMI :p

That’s all for this post! If you have any queries, send them through to goingpsychology@gmail.com.

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay happy!

Going Psycho(logy) ^.^



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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! ^.^