School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Comparative Health Care Systems (PHCM9471)

image - Comparative Health Care Systems


The first part of this course focuses on the principles and practice of health system analysis, the sources and utilisation of information relating to the development, organisation and operation of health services, and frameworks for assessing the performance of different health systems. Then, drawing on material from the health systems of affluent and developing countries, we examine the constitutional, legal, economic, social, and political environments within which health care systems operate and the various patterns that emerge. We review patterns of health service organisation and management: health policy development and planning; characteristics of personal, community and environmental health services and their activities; health service financing arrangements, including health insurance systems; and, the health workforce. The impact of some recent attempts at health system reform in different countries is assessed and proposals for future re-structuring are critically reviewed.

Credit points

This course is an elective course of the Master of Public Health, Master of Health Management and Master of International Public Health programs, comprising six units of credit towards the total required for completion of these study programs.

Mode of study

External (Distance) and Internal (Face-to-Face) classes on campus.

Course aim

The overall aim of this course is to enable you to build your understanding of the principles and practice of health system analysis and comparison, and to develop a framework for assessing the relative performance of different health care systems. The course aims to provide you with the capacities to draw on material from a wide range of affluent and developing countries and examine the constitutional, legal, economic, social, epidemiological and political environments within which health care systems operate.

Course Outcomes

By the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Identify the factors that underpin the performance of healthcare systems internationally.
  • Describe the different models for delivering and financing healthcare in different countries and their implications for health outcomes.
  • Evaluate and compare different healthcare systems, using the analytic frameworks and performance criteria used in comparative studies.
Learning and teaching rationale

This course offers you the opportunity to learn more about the healthcare system in your own country and how it compares with other countries. In doing this you will be able to:

  • develop a broader understanding of how healthcare systems operate, delivery services and finance those services;
  • work on an assessment related to the functioning of the healthcare system ina country of yourchoice;
  • develop a critical approach to the way things work in your healthcare system and thereby giving you ideas on how things could be done better;
  • develop your cognitive abilities, such as critical thinking or reflection, and;
  • highlight the wide disparities and inequalities in access to healthcare in different parts of the world.
Teaching strategies

Students in this course normally come from a wide range of countries. This course therefore provides a valuable opportunity for students to learn about each other’s health systems.  Face-to-face classes are organised to maximise interaction, and external students are encouraged to share their experiences and views on Moodle.


Assessment Task 1 - Participation in online journal club and submission of a group report
Weighting: 20%
Length: n/a

Assessment Task 2 - Essay comparing health financing of two healthcare systems
Weighting: 30%
Length: 1000 words

Assessment Task 3 - Essay analysing human resources for health (HRH) development of any country of choice
Weighting: 50%
Length: 2000 words


James A. Johnson and Carleen H. Stoskopf, (Eds) (2010), Comparative Health Systems: Global Perpsectives, Jones and Bartlett, Boston.

It is not essential that you buy this book – but it does have chapters describing the health systems of many countries.