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Unit information: Introduction to health economics for public health in 2018/19

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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 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Kipping
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences


This unit 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 unit 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 unit.

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. Distinguish between approaches to priority setting based on different equity and efficiency concerns and explain in detail how such approaches might be applied;
  4. Critically review approaches to economic evaluation and its application in public health settings both in the UK and globally;
  5. Discuss the uses and limitations of methods used in health economic evaluation, including different modelling and valuation techniques;
  6. Recognise the links between research methods used across public health more generally and health economics, including both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught at the University of Bristol over one term. There will be 25 contact hours split between lectures and seminars. Non-contact hours will comprise self-directed study including reading, accessing web-based supplementary materials, critical analysis and completion of assignments (75 hours)

Assessment Details

Formative assessments to enable the ongoing learning of students will be built into all sessions and will include approaches such as the use of exercises, quizzes, feedback from discussion and strategic questioning.

Two written assignments will form the summative assessment, with one linking specifically to the conceptual issues associated with the first three learning objectives (ILOs 1 – 3) and the second relating to the more applied focus of the fourth, fifth and sixth learning objectives (ILOs 4-6)

Each assignment will contribute 50% of the total weighting.

A combined 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