HP429      Half Unit
Behavioural Incentive Design in Health and Health Care

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Joan Costa-Font COW 1.06


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

 Access to the course will be given in priority to students from the Health Department.

Course content

The course covers the role of social and monetary incentives in modifying related health behaviour, and especially prevention and health care use. It will primarily draw on theoretical frameworks from several social sciences including applied microeconomics and behavioural economics, psychology, and sociology to provide an integrated framework about how to think about incentives in health and health care. The course will extend health economics teaching to cover quasi-rational behaviour and behavioural economics issues, and it will primarily focus on non-experimental evidence, although it will sometimes draw from policy and quasi-experiments. Its main purpose will be to discuss key theoretical and empirical background to guide the design of health and health care policies.

The course will focus on the following issues: Quasi-rational actor and motivation. Risk-benefit decision-making framework. Monetary and non monetary incentives.  Esteem, Stigma. Obesity and payments. Monetary Incentives, co-payment design, Social Incentives.  Reference Points. Risk preferences and perceptions. Locus of Control and Health and Health Care Behaviour. Anchoring and social cues. Taxes and Health: the role of Sin Taxes. Subsidies and Health: the role of conditional cash transfers. Myopia and Insurance Purchase: the case of long-term care insurance. Defaults and Presumed Consent. Motivation Crowding-Out and organ Donation. Information provision: risk information campaigns on food labelling, GM food. Stigma and Esteem: Smoking, Obesity. Cultural economics of health and health care: the role of traditional medicines. Body Self-Identity and Anorexia. Sleep and working time trade-off. Media, narratives and health-related behaviour. Culture, social norms: use of traditional medicine. Identity and blood donation, Food disorders. Health Inequality Aversion and Attitudes to Health Care. Behavioural incentives private and public health insurance design.


This course will be delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars and workshops totalling a minimum 25 hours during Lent Term. Students will take part in seminars presenting key readings and leading discussion. Students will work in small groups in workshops to develop skills in specific health policy problems and prepare their project to be presented to the entire class and submitted as a course assessment. 


Formative coursework

Students will submit slides of a presentation based on their group project and complete in-class quizzes

Indicative reading

Hanoch , Y  A. Barnes and T Rice (2017) Behavioral Economics and Healthy Behaviors: Key Concepts and Current Research. Routledge.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

The assessment will be an individual essay based on group project work.


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.

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: 81

Average class size 2020/21: 16

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

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