course ID: 2021_HEcon

An Introduction to health economics: how should we finance and organize our health care systems


This day-long course shows how the tools of health economics can be used to understand the health and welfare implications of how our health care systems are funded and organized.

How should we pay for health care?

Economics is the study of how society uses its limited resources. Often there arenĀ“t enough health care resources to meet all demands, even in high-income countries, with staff sometimes having to make life and death choices. Resource availability is determined by decisions made at societal level. In this lecture, we examine how countries choose to fund their health systems and the implications this has on who receives treatment.

Resource planning: how much capacity do we need?

How do countries estimate their needs for staff and physical capacity, such as doctors, nurses, hospitals and policlinics? In this lecture we employ bed modelling to assess what staffing and physical resources are needed to meet future demands facing the hospital sector. These techniques are illustrated by a case study in Bishkek, Krygyzstan.

Your money or your life? The inter-relationship between income and health

Many countries went into lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID19, temporarily prioritizing the health of the nation ahead of the economy. In this lecture, we first consider the inter-relationship between health and income at individual level: are people healthier because they are rich or are people richer because they are healthy? We then consider the relationship at national level: do countries that protect the health of their populations have better economic performance?

Learning objectives:

At the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Explain the constraints that resource scarcity places on health care decision-making;
  • Outline varied forms of funding and financial protection in the healthcare system;
  • Calculate resource capacity to meet the health needs of the population;
  • Interpret the interrelationship between health and income at the individual and national level.

Pedagogical method:

The day is built around three lectures and involves interactive activities, including polling and small group exercises in breakout rooms.

Assessment procedure:

Multiple choice quiz.

Andrew Street

Professor of Health Economics, London School of Economics (UK)