HP4D6E      Half Unit
Behavioural Insights for Health Incentive Design

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Joan Costa-Font COW 1.06


This course is available on the Executive MSc in Health Economics, Outcomes and Management in Cardiovascular Sciences and Executive MSc in Health Economics, Policy and Management. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

The course provides an introduction to behavioural health economics and policy. It is structured in three sections. The first section introduces the main concepts of the course.  This includes the meaning of behavioural incentives, choice architecture and cognitive biases such as present bias and availability biases and in the health and health care. In this section we offer some discussion on the methods for behavioural inventive design. A core of the section is the understanding of the learning and behaviour formation in health and health care. We examine a number of learning models which include rational learning, bounded learning, bayesian learning, social learning, emotional learning and other forms of behavioural learning. We draw on a number of examples on COVID-19 as well as from recently published evidence.  A second section discusses the role of the specific behavioural incentives in practice, and more specifically, monetary and social incentives in explaining health behaviours, as well as the role of role of nudge and the choice architecture. This section discusses the role of pay for performance, and crowding out, the role of esteem and number of biases that limit the use of social incentives such as social desirability biases, as well as social preferences. The section convers identity models, as well as the role of envy, guilt and regret and more generally emotions in guiding behaviour in health and health care.  We discuss the effect of narratives, and the effect of esteem and stigma. Similarly, we examine the role of nudge and reference points, alongside the cultural transmission and family joint formation of health behaviours.  A final section is devoted to study the specific behavioural mechanisms such as the role of behavioural spillovers and prevention failures, incentives for vaccine uptake and how to motivate providers behaviours and finally the role of incentives for insurance uptake and generally time and risks preferences, behavioural hazards, social anchoring and the effects of reminders and risk perceptions. Hassle costs and insurance misunderstandings. We discuss a number of recent experiences from Oregon experiment and Medicaid expansions in the Unites States, and other insurance expansion in other countries.


The course will be delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, workshop preparation and workshop totalling a minimum of 24 hours. Students will take part in workshops which include a small group preparation and presentation of a group project. Groups will prepare a short presentation of a question that builds on content delivered in the lectures.

Formative coursework

It is expected students to participate in organised discussion during workshop preparations and will prepare for the workshop presentations. There will be a quiz for students to answer and assess their performance.

Indicative reading

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


Project (100%, 3000 words).

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: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: 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