School of Population Health

Comparative Health Care Systems (PHCM9471)

image - Comparative Health Care Systems


This course focuses on the principles and practice of health system analysis, the sources and utilisation of information relating to the development, organisation and operation of healthcare systems, and frameworks for assessing the performance of different health systems. It draws on material from healthcare systems of both developed and less developed countries to examine the economic, social, epidemiological, and political environments within which healthcare systems operate and the various patterns that emerge. We examine the key building blocks of healthcare systems: financing arrangements including revenue generation, risk pooling and purchasing; health workforce including migration of health workers and health labour market dynamics; health system governance; models of health service delivery and access to essential medicines. The impact of some recent attempts at health system reform in different countries, including reform seeking to achieve universal health coverage, is assessed and proposals for future re-structuring are critically reviewed.

Credit points

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

Mode of study

This course is offered in two modes: 1) either face-to-face classes on-campus for Internal students, and 2) fully online for Distance External students.

Course aim

The overall aim of this course is to enable you to build your understanding of the principles and practice of health system analysis and comparison, including the frameworks for assessing the relative performance of different healthcare systems. The course aims to provide you with a broad overview of the structure and components of contemporary healthcare systems and how they function. This includes equipping you with the capacities to draw on material from a wide range of affluent and developing countries to examine the economic, social, epidemiological and political environments within which healthcare systems operate.

Course Outcomes

By the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Identify the factors that underpin the performance of healthcare systems internationally.
  • Describe the different models for delivering and financing healthcare in different countries and their implications for health outcomes.
  • Evaluate and compare different healthcare systems, using the analytic frameworks and performance criteria used in comparative studies.
Learning and teaching rationale

This course offers you the opportunity to learn more about the healthcare system in your own country and how it compares with other countries. In doing this you will be able to:

  • Develop a broader understanding of how healthcare systems operate, delivery services and finance those services;
  • Work on an assessment related to the functioning of the healthcare system in a country of your choice;
  • Develop a critical approach to the way things work in your healthcare system and thereby giving your ideas on how things could be done better;
  • Develop your cognitive abilities, such as critical thinking or reflection; and
  • Highlight the wide disparities and inequalities in access to healthcare in different parts of the world.
Teaching strategies

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 health systems.  Face-to-face classes are organised to maximise interaction, and external students are encouraged to share their experiences and views on Moodle.


Assessment Task 1 - Participation in online journal club on health systems reforms
Weighting: 20%
Length: n/a

Assessment Task 2 - Essay comparing health financing systems of two countries
Weighting: 30%
Length: 1500 words

Assessment Task 3 - Essay analysing human resources for health (HRH) development of any country of choice
Weighting: 50%
Length: 2000 words


James Johnson. Carleen H. Stoskopf, Leiyu Shi, (Eds) (2018), Comparative Health Systems: Global Perpsectives, 2nd ed, Jones and Bartlett, Boston.

It is not essential that you buy this book – but it does have chapters describing the health systems of many countries.