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Unit information: Introduction to health economics for public health in 2020/21

Unit name Introduction to health economics for public health
Unit code BRMSM0007
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Coast
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences


This module comprises an introduction to health economics, with a focus on issues associated with public health such as infectious disease, promoting healthy lifestyles and injury prevention. A basic understanding of health economics is an essential requirement for all those involved in public health, whether as practitioner, analyst or researcher. The module will begin by introducing basic concepts and principles, before examining the key areas of health economics that are relevant to public health: public goods, market failure in health systems and the role of public/government intervention; the roles of efficiency and equity in decision making and frameworks for priority setting; incentives and the allocation of resources; and economic evaluation, including an introduction to modelling and the measurement of quality of life. The interface between health economics and public health in promoting health and wellbeing across populations, both in the UK and globally, is a key theme of the module.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, the student should be able to:

  1. Define basic concepts and apply underlying principles used in health economics, including such notions as scarcity, opportunity cost, margins and efficiency, welfarism and extra-welfarism;
  2. Assess how market failure, incentive mechanisms and public goods influence resource allocation within health care systems;
  3. Recognise the links between research methods used across public health more generally and health economics, including both quantitative and qualitative methods;
  4. Distinguish between approaches to priority setting based on different equity and efficiency concerns and explain in detail how such approaches might be applied;
  5. Critically review approaches to economic evaluation and its application in public health settings both in the UK and globally;
  6. Discuss the uses and limitations of methods used in health economic evaluation, including different modelling and valuation techniques.

Teaching details

There will be 10 teaching weeks. Teaching will include learning activities set by the tutor including lectures (synchronous and asynchronous), small group work, discussions, individual tasks, and practical activities (face to face or online).

Directed and self-directed learning will include activities such as reading, accessing web-based supplementary materials, critical analysis, and completion of assessments.

Assessment Details

Formative assessments and feedback to enable the ongoing learning of students will be built into all sessions and will include approaches such as the use of exercises, quizzes, group work and discussion, and strategic questioning. There will also be an opportunity for formative feedback to inform the summative coursework.

The unit is assessed by coursework through a 2,500-word written assignment (ILOs 1-10)

A score of 50% will be required to pass the unit.

Reading and References

Essential reading

1. Morris S, Devlin N, Parkin D, Spencer A. Economic analysis in health care. Second edition. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 2012.

Recommended reading:

1. Drummond MF, Sculpher MJ, Claxton K, Stoddart GL, Torrance GW. Methods for the economic evaluation of health care programmes. Fourth edition. Oxford: Oxford Medical Publications. 2015.

2. Edlin R, McCabe C, Hulme C, Hall P, Wright J. Cost Effectiveness Modelling for Health Technology Assessment: A Practical Course. Adis. 2015

3. Owen L, Morgan A, Fisher A, Ellis S, Hoy A, Kelly MP. The cost-effectiveness of public health interventions Journal of Public Health, Volume 34, Issue 1, 1 March 2012, Pages 37–45.

4. Petrou S, Gray A. Economic evaluation alongside randomised controlled trials: design, conduct, analysis, and reporting. BMJ. 2011 Apr 7;342

5. Petrou S, Gray A. Economic evaluation using decision analytical modelling: design, conduct, analysis, and reporting. BMJ 2011;342

Further reading

1. Coast J. Qualitative methods for health economics. Rowman & Littlefield International. 2017

2. Briggs A, Sculpher M, Claxton K. Decision modelling for health economic evaluation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2006

3. McIntosh E, Clarke P, Frew E, Louviere JJ. Applied methods of cost-benefit analysis in health care. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2010

4. McPake B, Normand C, Smith S. Health economics. An international perspective. Third edition. Routledge. 2013Morris S, Devlin N, Parkin D, Spencer A. Economic analysis in health care. Second edition. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 2012.

5. Razzouk D. Mental health economics. The costs and benefits of psychiatric care. Springer. 2017

6. Smith R, Beaglehole R, Woodward D. Global Public Goods for Health: Health economic and public health perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2003