SA4N3      Half Unit
Social Policy and Global Health

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Elias Mossialos COW.4.08


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Global Health. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

The course starts with an introduction to the social determinants of health, and how social policy impacts population health. Following this, the course is organized in sessions each addressing separately the health effects of eight broad social determinants and areas of social policy: Education; childcare and early childhood; labour and employment; income support; Family and children; unemployment and disability; housing; and cash transfer programmes. Each session is structured across three axes: First, differences in social policy across countries, and examples of social policy interventions in high-, low- and middle- income countries, are discussed. Second, evidence on the impact of social policies on health based on both country-specific and cross-national studies is critically assessed. Third, specific methodological approaches are discussed based on concrete policy evaluation studies.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT. 3 hours of help sessions in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the MT.

Formative coursework: One non-assessed project research proposal (2,000 words) in week 5.  Students are expected to deliver a first research plan of their proposed project. It is expected that it will have a comparative character, comparing regions, countries or other geographic units that are of policy relevance. The research project will follow a structure: First, it will depart from identifying a specific social policy hypothesized to have an impact on health, addressing the question: what are the specific hypotheses that lead us to expect that this policy will have an impact on health?  Second, students will shortly summarize key literature, and identify the gaps in knowledge. Third, students will propose a concrete research question that can be addressed empirically and that contributes to filling a gap in the literature. Finally, they will outline an approach to address the proposed question, and discuss the potential strengths and limitations of their approach. Students will receive feedback on this paper, which will serve as basis for the development of the final proposed project paper.

Indicative reading

Berkman LF, Kawachi I (eds). Social Epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000 (forthcoming new edition in 2014).

House J, Schoeni R, Kaplan G, Pollack H. The Health Effects of Social and Economic Policy: The Promise and Challenge for Research and Policy. Making Americans Healthier: Social and Economic Policy as Health Policy. New York: Russell Sage Foundation; 2008.

Oakes M, Kaufman JS. Methods in Social Epidemiology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 2006.

Lundberg O, Yngwe MA, Stjarne MK et al. The role of welfare state principles and generosity in social policy programmes for public health: an international comparative study. Lancet 2008;372(9650):1633–40.

Heymann J, Earle A, McNeill K. The impact of labor policies on the health of young children in the context of economic globalization. Annu Rev Public Health 2013;34:355–72.

Fernald LC, Gertler PJ, Neufeld LM. Role of cash in conditional cash transfer programmes for child health, growth, and development: an analysis of Mexico’s Oportunidades. Lancet 2008;371(9615):828–37.

Lagarde M, Haines A, Palmer N. Conditional cash transfers for improving uptake of health inter ventions in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review. JAMA 2007;298(16):1900–10.

Avendano M, Glymour MM, Banks J, Mackenbach JP. Health disadvantage in US adults aged 50 to 74 years: a comparison of the health of rich and poor Americans with that of Europeans. Am J Public Health 2009;99(3):540–48.

Nores M, Barnett WS. Benefits of early childhood interventions across the world: (under) investing in the ver y young. Economics of Education Review 2010;29(2):271–82.

Engle PL, Fernald LC, Alderman H et al. Strategies for reducing inequalities and improving developmental outcomes for young children in low-income and middle-income countries. Lancet 2011;378(9799):1339–53.


Exam (75%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Project (25%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills