HP429      Half Unit
Behavioural Incentive Design in Health and Health Care

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof 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 Department of Health Policy.

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 Winter 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

Costa-Font, J., Hockley, T., & Rudisill, C. (2023). Behavioural Incentive Design for Health Policy: Steering for Health. Cambridge University Press.


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

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


Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 17
Merit 69.3
Pass 11.8
Fail 2

Key facts

Department: Health Policy

Total students 2022/23: 53

Average class size 2022/23: 13

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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