Frequently Asked Questions


For the Massey University undergraduate Certificate in Public Health (CertPubHlth)


The following outlines the process required to apply for a fees grant and to enrol for the Certificate in Public Health at Massey University. Both pathways must be completed.  See below for the FAQs. 


Frequently Asked Questions - Certificate in Public Health



  1. What is the purpose of the Certificate in Public Health (CertPubHlth)?

  2. What is the cultural approach of this CertPubHlth?

  3. How will the CertPubHlth be useful for me?

  4. Who is the CertPubHlth for?

  5. How do I enrol in the CertPubHlth?

  6. What strengths does Massey University bring to the CertPubHlth?

  7. What is the content of the CertPubHlth?

  8. Will I need to leave my job or work part time in order to study?

  9. How much time will I need to be on campus?

  10. How does the "distance learning" component of the CertPubHlth work?

  11. Will I need broadband internet access?

  12. How many study hours are likely to be needed each week/month for the distance learning component?

  13. What student support will be offered for students taking this qualification?

  14. What will I be awarded to me when I complete the CertPubHlth?

  15. What will it cost me to do the CertPubHlth?

  16. Can I get assistance with travel and accommodation for the contact courses?

  17. What happens if I withdraw or do not complete the course?

  18. I want to continue with the CertPubHlth but I have changed roles and/or employer. Am I still eligible for a fees grant or travel subsidy?

  19. How do I get my employer to support me through the qualification and with integrating my learning into my work?

  20. What other qualifications can I do after successfully completing the CertPubHlth?

1. What is the purpose of the Certificate of Public Health? 

For the past 30 years, the public health workforce has grown and evolved to meet the changing needs of society.  We now have a large and dynamic health promotion and community based workforce with a great variety of experience and qualifications.  However, access to baseline public health qualifications has been limited. Consequently, there is an inconsistent understanding of public health concepts and contexts across the public health and related sectors. 

The Massey University Certificate in Public Health (CertPubHlth) offers the opportunity to strengthen the foundation public health knowledge and skills essential for successful community based practice.  It is a part time, undergraduate level five, public health qualification offered as a distance learning programme (since 2014). 

Over time, the CertPubHlth will help grow a consistent understanding of, and a more unified language to communicate, the concepts and tools commonly used in public health. It aims to strengthen the public health and primary health care sectors’ capability to improve population health and promote health equity.  

The CertPubHlth provides an accessible first step qualification (particularly for the non-regulated workforce) that has been designed for the public health sector who are in full time or part time employment.  It is designed to be engaging and achievable for students who have not previously completed higher education courses and those who have entered the public health workforce from other disciplines. 

The CertPubHlth is the beginning of an education pathway, and its papers can be transferred towards the Massey University Bachelor of Health Sciences for which a public health major has been developed.

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2. What is the cultural approach of this Certificate? 

The CertPubHlth has been specifically designed to recognise the unique contribution Maori make to public health practice in Aotearoa.  It provides the tools, frameworks and communication skills for all students to strengthen their ability to promote health equity and Maori Health outcomes to diverse audiences.  This is done through engaging with issues that affect health equity and diversity more generally, as well as encouraging those who wish to, to focus more exclusively on Maori health.  

The CertPubHlth programme weaves Te Tiriti o Waitangi throughout the papers and encourages students to explore and recognise diverse paradigms, world views, concepts and experiences.

The CertPubHlth encourages students to form online or, if students live in the same region, face to face peer groups.  These can be set up in a way that best suits the particular student groups and can be Maori or Pacific (or other) specific groups.

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3. How will the CertPubHlth be useful for me? 

The CertPubHlth is a part time, easily accessed distance learning programme, mostly completed online. It is designed to be completed while you are still working. It offers the opportunity to strengthen cultural competence and is purposefully structured to address health inequalities for Maori, Pasifika and other population groups. 

The CertPubHlth provides the opportunity for you to learn a range of new skills that you can apply in your workplace and build on your existing skills. It builds practical skills to analyse, design, communicate, plan, advocate for, implement and evaluate public health initiatives.

You can also customise your course work to focus on your specific area of practice or your particular interests.

The CertPubHlth will challenge you to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and attributes required of a public health practitioner, capable of working both independently and in a collaborative environment. 

The attainment of the CertPubHlth qualification can increase your work opportunities, especially as you successfully integrate the learning into your everyday work.  

The content of the CertPubHlth is centered on the expectation that a graduate who successfully completes the CertPubHlth will be able to:
  • Analyse health inequalities based on an understanding of the social, cultural and economic determinants of health in New Zealand.
  • Identify opportunities to promote and protect public health based on an understanding of the influence of public health policy, public health advocacy and the scope of public health disciplines and functions.
  • Contribute effectively to community health development based on an analysis of health inequalities; an understanding of public health issues from a Treaty of Waitangi perspective and key public health agreements such as the Ottawa Charter.
  • Build and maintain relationships with Maori, Pacific and/or other peoples in New Zealand using culturally appropriate values, processes and protocols.
  • Use research and evaluation effectively to improve own public health practice and have skills in critique, analysis and written and oral communication.
For more information about the CertPubHlth course see Massey University's website.

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4. Who is the CertPubHlth for? 

Two major groups have been identified as the primary audience for the CertPubHlth:
  • Those who are already working to improve public health in their community without a formal tertiary qualification, but who wish to strengthen their public health knowledge and expand their career opportunities through formal tertiary qualifications.
  • Those already working in public health who hold a formal tertiary qualification, but wish to strengthen their understanding of public health contexts and practice.
The CertPubHlth will also be relevant to people from the primary health care sector who may require public health skills and knowledge, and to new immigrants to New Zealand whose jobs require competencies that relate to the New Zealand public health sector. 

The CertPubHlth provides an accessible and manageable first step qualification (particularly for the non-regulated workforce) that has been purposefully designed for people working in public health related work. It is designed to be engaging and achievable for students who have not previously completed higher education courses.

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5. How do I enrol in the CertPubHlth? 

The CertPubHlth is offered through the School of Public Health at Massey University as a part time, distance learning programme with contact (block) courses in Auckland and Wellington. 

You can enrol by visiting the Massey University website and enrolling online with MyEnrolment. There are no specific pre-requisite qualifications required to enrol in the CertPubHlth, but applicants will need to meet Massey University’s enrolment eligibility criteria.  

Enrolment at Massey University

If you have any questions about enrolling you can call 0800 MASSEY (0800 627 739) or email

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6. What strengths does Massey University bring to the CertPubHlth? 

Massey has strong expertise and a solid reputation in providing distance learning and practical applied courses for diverse audiences. 
Massey University’s School of Public Health has set up the CertPubHlth in a way that is supportive and achievable for students who haven’t done university study before, while challenging those with tertiary qualifications.

Importantly, Massey has a proven online collaborative learning platform (STREAM), where students can access online lectures, tutorial sessions, research and assignment information.  STREAM is also assists students with information about setting up regional and/or interest peer groups that will encourage and support them in their learning.
It also offers practical support with building your study skills and links students to extra assistance.

Massey’s Online Writing and Learning Link (OWLL) also supports students with study skills and guidelines, as does the CertPubHlth teaching staff.  

Unique to Massey University will be the opportunity for students to transition from the CertPubHlth into to higher learning degree opportunities.

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7. What is the content of the CertPubHlth? 

The CertPubHlth is made up of four papers as outlined below. Please click on the links for more information. 

Semester One 

1.     Introduction to Public Health and Research - paper 231.10
Topics include: 
  • Public health systems 
  • Major public health issues 
  • Contribution of epidemiology to public health policy and practice 
  • Research methodologies in a public health context.

2.     Determinants of Health - paper 231.102
Topics include: 
  • Social, cultural, economic and environmental determinants of health 
  • Health systems and structural factors and their impact on public health 
  • Culture and its influence on the health of populations 
  • Culture and its influence on public health practice 
  • Health equity 
  • Ethics in cross cultural practice 
  • Maori initiatives.
Semester Two 

3.     Public Health Development and Evaluation - paper 231.103
Topics include: 
  • International and local frameworks used in public health practice 
  • Application of frameworks to community development, health promotion and community action 
  • Evaluation applied to public health practice.
4.     Public Health Policy and Advocacy - paper 231.104 
Topics include: 
  • The role of policy and advocacy in public health 
  • Key health policies 
  • Policy advocacy 
  • Legislation, regulations and laws that promote and protect public health 
  • Political processes and making submissions 
  • Media advocacy 
  • Community mobilisation 
  • Writing a media release and letter to the editor.

Duration of study

Massey has two semesters per calendar year. You can complete either one or two papers per semester.  
  • If you do two papers per semester, you can complete all four CertPubHlth papers in one year.  
  • If you do one paper per semester, it will take you four semesters (two years) to complete all four CertPubHlth papers.
Note that papers 101 and 102 are only offered in semester one and papers 103 and 104 are only offered in semester two.

Contact Courses

There is a compulsory contact course for each paper in CertPubHlth which equates to 1.5 days on campus, per paper. Students can attend contact courses at the Albany (Auckland) or central Wellington campus.  Please note contact course dates for each venue carefully as attendance is mandatory to pass the papers. 

There is also a two-day orientation contact course designed to introduce all CertPubHlth students to the course content of the programme, the online environment, staff and other students. Returning students are not required to attend this.

Refer Q.9 for Contact Course Schedule

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8. Will I need to leave my job or work part time in order to study? 

The CertPubHlth is offered as on online distance learning programme that can be done outside of your work hours. Alternatively you can negotiate with your employer to study within your usual work hours or to receive study leave.  
If you receive a Ministry of Health Fees Grant for your study, your employer is required to give you paid leave for the contact (block) course days. Other support expected to be provided is outlined here 

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9.  How much time will I need to be on campus? 

Contact course schedule (PDF document) 

You can choose to attend the contact courses in either Auckland or Wellington on the Massey University campuses. If you are a returning student in the CertPubHlth, the introductory course is optional.

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10. How does the “distance learning” component of the CertPubHlth work? 

Massey University’s online distance learning environment relies on three key aspects: 

Anywhere: Online learning makes it possible for a student living out of a main centre to access a quality education that would otherwise not be available. For example, a student living in Kaitaia will have the same advantages as a student living in Auckland.

Anytime: Students are not confined by the timetable of a university – they can study at any time of the day, making it possible for working students to upskill and remain financially stable.

Anyplace: Students need not be confined to a specific place, they can study from home, from work or from a public space like a library. They are not confined to lecture spaces to gain new knowledge and skills. 

STREAM is offered through Massey University’s online learning environment.  It is a space on the internet where teachers and students can build online learning communities to support their own practice in public health.

STREAM is a customised version of the open source software package called Moodle. 

Students can network and make contact with other people in public health in these courses and in doing so enhance their own learning and practice.

How does STREAM support and create these online learning communities – through communication, collaboration, live and recorded lectures, resources and assessment. 

Students can divide into groups that reflect their backgrounds, cultures, regions or level of learning. They can then discuss or communicate with each other either just within one group, or be allocated to different groups depending on their learning styles.
The groups can meet and network with other students to form valuable connections that may be sustained beyond the CertPubHlth and into their future practice. 

Collaborative learning is where people engaged in the learning process share and benefit from others knowledge, skills and resources.

This includes and relies on the teaching staff being part of this collaborative process.  The collaborative learning takes place in a number of ways:
  • Lessons are interactive tools where students can answer questions, reflect on their experiences, make decisions, participate in case studies. 
  • Glossaries are spaces where students can work together to help define terms or phrases associated with the course. 
Forums are spaces where students can discuss the course content, ask questions and share information with others.

Live and Recorded Lectures
Lecturers can teach in a live lecture which is available in real time through the internet using this Adobe software. Students are able to log in and participate in these lecturers through listening and asking questions or sharing resources. 

These lectures can also be recorded and stored in Stream where they can be accessed by all the students and watched as often as students like. 

Paper guides contain all the assignments, information about timetables, how the course is run.  Massey can insert links and ‘feeds’ to the latest publications and peer reviewed articles.  All the relevant readings for the course are available online and there are videos and links to other websites.

There is also online access to Massey’s Library, to order books, articles, search etc.  

Academic support is offered through the Massey University.  This will help people to learn about how to write and reference (Refer Q.13).

Your work will be assessed online and a grade allocated by your assessor. The CertPubHlth assessment only occurs through assignments.

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11. Will I need broadband internet access?

As the CertPubHlth is an online distance learning course broadband internet access is essential.  You will be required to “tune” in to Massey University’s online learning environment, STREAM, and connect to other relevant websites for research and collaboration with other students. 

It is also essential for students to have the Adobe Reader programme which can be downloaded online. 

In circumstances where broadband is not available, a paper based option will be offered where a student can receive paper copies of the course work.

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12. How much study time do I need to factor in? 

Approximately 9.2 hours per week of study hours are required per week, per paper. This equates to allocating over an hour each day to study.

The CertPubHlth is made up of four papers. Each year, there are two papers offered in the first semester and two offered papers in the second semester. You can do the CertPubHlth over one year by doing two papers per semester or you can space it out over two years by doing one paper per semester for two years. 

Each paper is 150 hours per semester, including: 
  • All assignments 
  • The compulsory contact (block) course (1.5 days per paper, 8 hours per day = 12 hours per paper)
  • Estimated reading time
  • Engaging with STREAM (Massey University’s online learning environment).  
150 hours per paper, less the 12 hours contact course time per paper, is 138 hours over the 15 weeks semester. 

As noted above this averages out to 9.2 hours per week of study hours per week, per paper. We encourage students to take this into account when planning how many papers to enrol in.

In addition to the above, students are also required to attend the two-day introduction contact course that takes place one week before the official semester start date.  This introduction course is optional for returning students. 

You are encouraged to regularly engage in the online learning process and will be supported to do this.  You must meet the requirements of assignments.

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13. What student support will be offered for students taking this qualification?  

The CertPubHlth is a well-supported and achievable study programme for new and experienced formal tertiary learners.  
Massey University offers students study support through its online learning environment, which is the gateway to a wide range of study and writing resources and covers topics such as how to study, how to write assignments, how to reference and how to study for exams. 

All students, whether internal or distance, undergraduate or postgraduate, native English speaking or ESOL, can use this website to develop their academic writing and study skills. 

Additionally, the CertPubHlth course lecturers can offer direction and other support for students. 

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14. What will be awarded to me when I complete the CertPubHlth? 

You will be awarded the level five Massey University Certificate in Public Health at Massey University’s graduation ceremonies.

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15. What will it cost me to do the CertPubHlth? 

Fees grants are available until 2018 for NZ citizens and residents who do public health work for Ministry funded providers if that provider holds a Study Support Agreement (SSA) with the Ministry of Health.

Note that regardless of whether you receive a fees grant or not you still need to enrol in the course through Massey (they are separate processes).

The Ministry will provide full fees grants for those in public health roles who work for Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and DHBs/Public Health Units. Recognising the smaller infrastructure of NGOs, the Ministry will also provide air travel assistance for NGO staff who need to fly to attend contact courses in Auckland or Wellington (limited to those more than 200km away).   

More information about Study Support Agreements

The fees grants do not cover non-tuition fees such as student association fees which vary from student to student depending on what they opt to pay for. 

If you do not qualify for a CertPubHlth Fees Grant, the cost of enrolment per paper is outlined in the descriptions for each paper on the Massey University website, and fees are payable at the time of enrolment. 

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16. Can I get assistance with travel and accommodation for contact courses?
Funding is available to reimburse costs associated with air travel (only) to contact courses for people who meet all of the following:
  • Work in a public health related role in a public health funded NGO.
  • Hold a signed SSA with the Ministry of Health.
  • Work 200km or more away from the contact course venue.  

Air travel assistance can be applied for with the fees grant online application.

Other travel expenses (road travel, taxis, etc.) and accommodation are at the individual’s expense unless their employer has agreed to support them. 

If you do not meet the criteria for a CertPubHlth fees grant / air travel funding, you may wish to negotiate with your employer for financial support to undertake the programme.

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17. What happens if I withdraw or do not complete the course? 

In the event you withdraw or do not complete the course, your employer will be obligated to refund the Ministry:
  • The full fees grant.
  • The balance of any travel grant (if the grant for travel is not taken at the time you withdraw from the course).
The Ministry may waive any refund payable by your employer if:
  • Your withdrawal or non-completion is due to extenuating circumstances i.e. illness to you or member of your family.
  • You have adhered to Massey University's withdrawal from course processes and dates.
If you believe there are extenuating circumstances, please notify the Ministry in writing (e.g email) outlining appropriate information for consideration by the Ministry.

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18. I want to continue with the CertPubHlth but I have changed roles and/or employer.  Am I still eligible for a fees grant and travel subsidy?

If you change your role or employer organisation, you must promptly notify Marlene Williams at the Ministry of Health of this change.  The Ministry will confirm whether you remain eligible for fees grants and/or travel subsidies.  Your new employer must sign a new Study Support Agreement for you. 

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19. How do I get my employer to support me through the CertPubHlth and with integrating my learning into my work

The CertPubHlth programme is specifically designed to assist you to apply your learning to your current work.  All course work can be customised to focus on your work programme.

We encourage you to discuss the requirements of each paper with your employer and together, agree how you can apply your learning and how this might enhance your job performance.

If your employer has signed a hard copy of the Study Support Agreement and sent it to the Ministry of Health, they will already have agreed to provide you with integrated learning support.

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20. What other qualifications can I do after successfully completing the CertPubHlth? 

Massey will allow students to transition onto higher degree courses, including some transference of equivalent credits from the CertPubHlth . This is a unique opportunity for the unregulated workforce to pathway into higher learning. 

The higher degree courses could open up opportunities to specialise in areas such as health protection, health promotion, public health nursing and medicine. 

See Massey University list of programmes for 2016 for more information about these careers and more.  

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