HP401      Half Unit
Introduction to Health Policy and Politics

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Justin Parkhurst COW 2.08


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Global Health Policy and MSc in International Health Policy. This course is available on the MSc in Global Population Health, MSc in Health Policy, Planning and Financing and MSc in International Health Policy (Health Economics). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

A comparative approach to the development of health and healthcare policies in high, middle, and low income country settings, emphasising the goals of health policymaking, public health approaches, the political nature of health policy issues, and core concepts from policy studies that can be used to conceptualise policy change dynamcs in health.

The course will introduce concept of risk and risk reducing strategies, theories of planning, and priority setting techniques in health care. In addition, the course will examine the processes and forces shaping the development and implementation of health policy. The course will examine core concepts such as power, the role of the state and other policy stakeholders (e.g. NGOs, international organisations, etc.), institutions, and evidence, in shaping health policy agendas or choices.


This course will be delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum 23 hours during Michaelmas Term. Seminars will take place in small groups where students will work together in small groups on structured learning activities set by the course leads. 

There will be a departmental reading week in week 6 of term.

Formative coursework

Students will sit a mock written exam in the last week of term.

Indicative reading

Green, A., An Introduction to Health Planning for Developing Health Systems, new edn, OUP, 2007.

Walt, Gill. 1994. Health policy: an introduction to process and power. London: Zed Books.

Hill, M. The Policy Process, a reader, second ed. Harlow: Prentice Hall 1997

Buse, Kent, Nick Mays, and Gill Walt. 2012. Making Health Policy. Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press.

D Leon & G Walt (eds), Poverty, Inequality and Health: An international perspective, OUP (2001)

Parkhurst, J. The politics of evidence: from evidence based policy to the good governance of evidence. London Routledge 2016.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 2.2
Merit 69.9
Pass 26.2
Fail 1.7

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Health Policy

Total students 2020/21: 110

Average class size 2020/21: 10

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills