Health Sciences - College of Education, Health and Human Development - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

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Master of Health Sciences (Health Behaviour Change)

Health Behaviour Change sceneBehaviours which maybe injurious to health are widespread in our society – smoking, hazardous drinking, inadequate diet, lack of exercise - and many chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, require lifestyle behaviour change as part of their management.  Changing such behaviours can be difficult, requiring time and considerable effort and motivation. Motivational interviewing (MI) is a collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment for change.  Research shows that with appropriate training, MI may be used by various health workers to facilitate change of addictive and unhealthy behaviours. The health behaviour change programme has the potential to strengthen significantly the health workforce skill base needed to address several objectives of the New Zealand Health and Disability strategies.

The Master of Health Sciences (Health Behaviour Change) [MHealSc(Health Behaviour Change)] is a 240-point degree which is both practice and research focused. This degree will appeal to those interested in developing research skills as well practice skills relevant to the health sector. Student research examines a range of significant issues in health sciences with the aim of contributing to the evidence leading to improved health and well-being.

The Master of Health Sciences consists of two parts, usually completed within two years by full-time students. In Part 1, students follow the endorsed specialisation programme. Students will be asked to critically reflect, to link theory to policy and practice in their coursework during the first year (Part 1), and to develop a research question focused on Health Behaviour Change.

Following on from the coursework in Part 1, the thesis research (Part 2) is generally completed by an original investigation relevant to Health Behaviour Change, which may be conducted locally, within New Zealand, or overseas, with the support of supervisors specifically selected to support your topic. A full year of research is recommended although other options may be available in certain circumstances. 

A recent masters thesis was completed by Arno Grueber: Outcomes and experiences of participants of the Activity Based Experience Programme at Richmond Services Limited: A Mixed Methods Study.

If you are a current health practitioner in New Zealand you may be entitled to Health Workforce NZ Funding. Please contact your local DHB for application details.

You can start in either February (Semester 1) or July (Semester 2). This degree normally takes 4 semesters full time or 8 semesters part time. 

For specific information about courses, when you get to the general course page, please click on the red link for the course occurrence.

The table below is a suggested pathway for this programme. Please note there are further optional courses available from Schedule B to the Regulations for the Master of Health Sciences. Please check course availability.

Part-time students please check with a student advisor before enrolling.


Part 1
Semester 1

Part 1
Semester 2

Part 2
Year 2

Required courses
60 pts
HLTH430 Motivating Behaviour Change I
(30 pts)
HLTH431 Motivating Behaviour Change 2
(30 pts)
Required course
120 pts
    HLTH690 MHealSc Thesis
(120 pts)
Research methods course or other approved alternative

HLTH460 Critical Appraisal in Health Research (30 pts)


60 pts from the schedule or other approved courses
including the approved research methods course

HLTH401 Health and Health Systems
(30 pts)

HLTH402 Health Information Management 
(30 pts)

HLTH460 Critical Appraisal in Health Research
(30 pts)

HLTH403 Environmental Health
(30 pts)


HLTH407 Bioethics
(30 pts)



HLTH409 Health and Culture
(30 pts)


HLTH467 Mental Health and Addictions
(30 pts)

  HLTH433 Bioethics A
(15 pts) (Term 3)
  HLTH434 Bioethics B
(15pts) Term 4)

HLTH468 Acute and Long Term Health Care
(30 pts)


HLTH469 Health Issues in the Community

  HLTH472 Quantitative Methods in Health Research (Introductions to Psychometric Theory and Administration)
(15 pts)
  HLTH408 (C) Qualitative Health Methodologies (Special Topic: Independent Study)
(15 pts)

In Part 1 part-time students would usually complete one or two courses per semester to total 30 points. Full-time students would usually complete two to four courses per semester to total 60 points.

Part 2 may be completed part-time with prior approval.

Please refer to individual course webpages for further details regarding course dates, workshops and other attendance requirements.