HAR697: Using Policy to Strengthen Health Systems

The Using Policy to Strengthen Health Systems module is led by Richard Cooper. It runs in the Spring semester and is worth 15 credits.


The Using Policy to Strengthen Health Systems module is led by Richard Cooper. It runs in the Spring semester and is worth 15 credits.

It is one of the modules on:

This module is available as a CPD option

This module is available University-wide in any year as a DDP module


This module seeks to build on students' own experiences and knowledge of policy and public health systems.

Over the course of the module, you will work individually and also in groups to develop a critical understanding of policy and particular public health systems, and to develop ideas and proposals about how public health systems might be strengthened.

These improvements might be targeted at any combination of the regional, national, district, and community levels.

In the module, policy is interpreted broadly as ‘purposeful and deliberate actions’ through which efforts can be made to reshape or address issues within public health systems (cf. Gilson, 2012).

Public health systems are understood both as public health systems (covering for example health protection, health promotion and health care public health) and, more narrowly, as health care systems.

The module is suitable for students with broad public health and health care knowledge, but also for those with more limited experience.

Aims and objectives

The module aims to:

  • Provide students with the critical skills to analyse and understand the underpinning social, economic and political contexts of health policies, and the factors that influence the development and impact in specific public health system contexts
  • Provide critical insight into policy efforts to strengthen public health systems in different contexts
  • Develop a critical appreciation of how health systems in particular contexts might be strengthened through policy initiatives

On satisfactory completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Assess current issues facing public health systems in different national and local contexts and policy initiatives to address them
  • Identify and critically evaluate how different factors (historical, social, economic/financial, technological and political) shape and influence policies and public health system development at global, national and sub-national levels
  • Assess the main actors involved in public health policy processes at global, national and sub-national levels
  • Identify current policy initiatives related to public health systems strengthening and critically analyse how particular groups or people may (or may not) benefit from that strengthening
  • Suggest and explain ways in which public health systems may be changed and improved through different policy measures at global, national and sub-national levels

Teaching methods

Lectures will provide an overview of the material for each stage of the module, in order to ensure that all students have a similar level of understanding before moving to interactive learning and group work.

Each student needs to be prepared to take charge of their own learning. Students will identify and critically analyse particular case studies of health policy and health systems in different national to local contexts.

Tutors will introduce particular policy theories, tools and models about strengthening health systems, which the students will investigate and research further.

The tutors will facilitate a simulated role play of policy processes to strengthen public health systems. Students will also work both in groups and individually to develop their understanding.

The module is designed to be interactive in nature, so students should expect to engage in group work and discussion with their fellow students and tutors.


As this is a 15-credit module, the expectation is that each student will spend around 150 working hours on it (including teaching).

So, apart from being expected to attend all the timetabled sessions, you are also expected to spend around 14 full days or 28 half-days doing further investigation and inquiry – a considerable amount of time.

As part of this extra activity outside scheduled sessions, for the case study inquiries, each student will need to arrange further meetings (either face-to-face, by telephone or online) with their group members (which will need to take place in-between the formal sessions).

Attending the taught sessions alone will not enable you to do the work necessary for the group and individual inquiries, and will not be considered as acceptable performance.


The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research, funding changes, professional accreditation requirements, student or employer feedback, outcomes of reviews, and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

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