You may be one of those people who asks yourself, "What does economics have to do with health and health care?" For some people, economics seems quite at odds with fundamental social goals such as  'good health'. The answer lies in the fact that resources are inevitably scarce and choices have to be made about their allocation. Health economics is about the optimisation of health relative to other activities and making choices to use resources in ways that improve health and service delivery within the limited resources available.

Health economics can provide insight into questions like:  

  • Which is the more effective method of increasing the uptake of health services: price controls or subsidies? 
  • How will the involvement of the private sector in the funding and delivery of health care affect access to it? 
  • What are the most cost-effective mechanisms for delivering essential medicines to those living in remote areas? 
  • Are out-of-pocket payments for health care a regressive funding mechanism? 
  • How should doctors be paid? 

The primary goal of this course is to provide participants with the knowledge, skills and basic economic arguments that are central to discussions about health policy options and resource allocation choices in low and middle income countries.

This course is an elective in the Master of Health Leadership and Management, Master of Public Health and Master of Global Health programs comprising 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program.

Mode of study

Face-to-face classes on-campus for Internal students & fully online for Distance External students

Key contact

Dr Augustine Asante
Course Convenor
+61 (2) 9385 8683

Who should do this course?

We welcome students from any discipline and level of experience to contribute perspectives and understandings. In addition, we encourage you to engage with the material, ask questions, discuss relevant issues with teachers and colleagues, and regard the available literature with a critical eye.

Course outcomes

While the concepts, theories and models discussed are relevant to countries at all levels of developmen, the primary aim of this course is to provide you with the knowledge, skills and fundamental economic arguments that are central to discussions about health policy options and resource allocation choices with a particular emphasis on low and middle income countries.

Drawing on examples and case studies, by the end of this course students will be able to:

  • explain the key economic principles and concepts relevant to health economics and financing
  • discuss specific features that distinguish markets for health care from markets for other goods and services and potential for market failure in the health sector
  • distinguish between the principal ways of funding health services and paying healthcare providers
  • critically appraise evidence on the efficiency and equity implications of health financing reforms in low and middle income countries.

Learning & teaching

You will explore healthcare systems in low and middle income countries, drawing on rich sources of data and as case studies through which to analyse resource allocation decision-making. You will then consider how to better deliver and finance services to improve health outcomes in these countries.

Students in this course normally come from a wide range of countries. This course, therefore, provides a valuable opportunity for students to learn about each other's healthcare systems.


Assessment Task 1 – Group report
Weighting: 10%
Length: N/A

Assessment Task 2 – Participation in group work
Weighting: 10%
Length: N/A

Assessment Task 3 – Country case study
Weighting: 30%
Length: 1500 words

Assessment Task 4 – Essay on market failure in the health sector
Weighting: 50%
Length: 2000 words

Readings & resources 

Learning resources for this course, posted in Moodle, consist of the following:

  • course outline and readings
  • lecture slides
  • skills-building exercises
  • check your learning quizzes.

Recommended textbook

Introduction to Health Economics, Second edition. Edited by Lorna Guinness and Virginia Wiseman