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Health economic theory, 7.5 Credits

Swedish name: Hälsoekonomisk teori

This syllabus is valid: 2018-08-27 and until further notice

Course code: 3FH071

Credit points: 7.5

Education level: Second cycle

Main Field of Study and progress level: Public Health: Second cycle, has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements

Grading scale: VG Pass with distinction, G Pass, U Fail

Established by: Programme council for the International Master Programme in Public Health (PRPH), 2016-05-18

Revised by: Programme council for Master Programmes in Public Health, 2018-08-22


While health itself cannot be traded on any market, products and services that produce health are traded on a number of different markets. Competition between providers, and different provider payment methods (e.g. fee-for-service, capitation, pay-for-performance) create financial incentives that influence provider behaviour. Pre-payment systems are common (including tax, public and private health insurance), meaning that health care is rarely fully paid for by the consumer at the point of use. Severe market imperfections, such as information asymmetries between patients, providers and payers, mean that traditional economic models are of little to no use in analysing health financing and health care markets.

This course equips students to describe and discuss how the discipline of economics analyses the production of health, and to analyse the financing and production of health care in relation to the policy objectives of efficiency and equity. A limited amount of mathematical notation is used to introduce theoretical models. Empirical examples are mainly drawn from Sweden and from low- and middle-income countries. 

Expected learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

After this course the student is expected to be able to:
  • compare and contrast the efficiency and equity effects of different health financing methods
  • compare and contrast the incentive effects that competition between providers and different provider payment methods have on the quantity, quality, and cost of health care
Skills and abilities

After this course the student is expected to be able to:
  • analyse health care as an economic good
  • apply economic concepts and theories to analyse health financing and health production in relation to the policy objectives of equity and efficiency
  • analyse the role of government in the production of health
Judgement and approach

After this course the student is expected to be able to:
  • describe and make one’s own judgement on the approach taken by economics to the determinants of health
  • critically reflect on the role of economic incentives in the health care sector

Required Knowledge

For non-programme students applying as single-course students, the requirements are 120 ECTS, of which a minimum of 30 ECTS are within one of the following: health sciences, environmental health or social sciences.

English proficiency equivalent to English B/6 from Swedish Upper secondary education. 

Form of instruction

The teaching consists of lectures, group work and seminars. The teaching language is English. The teaching is carried out jointly by Epidemiology and Global Health and the Department of Economics.

Examination modes

The extent to which the student has achieved the expected learning outcomes is assessed through a two-part examination. A written exam is held at the end of the course. The time allocated to the exam is six hours. The written exam consists of short essay questions. The written exam is graded as Fail (U), Pass (G), or Pass with Distinction (VG). In addition, the student’s contribution to literature discussion in a seminar is given a grade Fail (U) or Pass (G). 

The grade for the course as a whole is composed of the two-part examination. To be given the grade Pass with Distinction (VG), the student must receive VG on the written exam and G for the seminar. For the grade Pass (G), both the written exam and the seminar must be graded as G.

The examiner can grant the student the right to an alternative form of examination in special circumstances. A student who fails the ordinary exam is entitled to a re-sit. A student who receives a Pass grade is not allowed to re-sit in an attempt to receive a higher grade. A student who has received a Fail grade twice is entitled to request that the Director of Studies assigns another teacher to examine the course, unless special circumstances prevent this. A written request should be sent to the Director of Studies.


Other regulations

Students have the right to request that previous education or equivalent knowledge and skills acquired through professional experience is credited against the corresponding course at Umeå University. An application should be submitted by the student to Studentcentrum/Examina. Details on credit transfer can be found at Umeå University's student web,, and the Higher Education Ordinance (Chapter 6). A refusal of accreditation may be appealed to the University Appeals Board (Higher Education Ordinance Chapter 12). This applies both the the whole application and to its components in case the application for accreditation is refused.


Valid from: 2018 week 35

The Oxford handbook of health economics
Glied Sherry, Smith Peter
Oxford : Oxford University Press : 2011 : xxiv, 967 s. :
ISBN: 9780199238828
Search Album, the University Library catalogue