University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Social Policy and Health Economics

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Public Health

DESCRIPTION The study-unit will cover the following topics:

Social Policy

1. Equality, equity and policy
2. Concepts of need and social policy
3. Priorities and rationing
4. Balancing equity and efficiency
5. Consumerism and community participation
6. Public access to information
7. User and carer involvement in service planning
8. Problems of policy implementation
9. Principal approaches to policy implementation
10. Appreciation of concepts of power, interests and ideology
11. Inequalities in the distribution of health and health care and its access, including inequalities relating to social class, gender, culture and ethnicity, and their causes
12. Migration and the health effects of international trade; international influences on health and social policy
13. Critical analysis of investment in health improvement, and the part played by economic development and global organisations.

Health Economics

1. Principles of health economics (including the notions of scarcity, supply and demand, marginal analysis, distinctions between need and demand, opportunity cost, margins, efficiency and equity)
2. Assessing performance through input-output model; financial resource allocation and value for money in health care; systems of health and social care and the role of incentives to achieve desired outcomes
3. Market failures in health care; public and private health insurance
4. Planning health services through a systematic planning model; allocative and technical efficiency
5. Techniques of economic appraisal (including cost-effectiveness analysis and modelling, cost-utility analysis, option appraisal and cost-benefit analysis, measurement of health benefits in terms of QALYs and related measures
6. Marginal analysis; decision analysis
7. The role of economic evaluation and priority setting in health care decision making including the cost effectiveness of Public Health, and Public Health interventions and involvement.

Study-unit Aims:

The study-unit is aimed at imparting knowledge and skills in social policy and economics to enable public health planners to make rationale decisions in the allocation of resources and planning of health services.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Consider the concept of Health as a social commodity;
- Understand the role of social policy and health economics in the planning of health services to ascertain efficient and effective use of scarce resources;
- Understand the fluxes operational on health status and health services;
- Appreciate all the social determinants influencing health status and utilisation of health services;
- Understand how investing in health is investing in wealth;
- Appreciate the principles of value for money in health care provision.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Peruse systematic modelling techniques in the planning of health services to ensure optimisation in the use of available resources to enhance national health status;
- Conduct Economic analysis techniques and their role in efficiency gains in health sector;
- Conduct Financial modeling in the provision of health services to foster value for money and counteract market failures;
- Apply the use of input-output models to increase efficient use of resources and to measure performance.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Social Policy Comparative Analysis. Michael Hill. New York : Prentice-Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1996.
- Principles of economic appraisal in health care. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Drummond MF. 1980.
- Methods for the economic evaluation of health care programmes. 2nd edition. Drummond MF, O’Brien B, Stoddart GL, Torrance GW. Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1997.
- Choices for health care: a practical introduction to the economics of health provision. Mooney G, Russell E, Weir R. London: Macmillan, 1986.
- Value for Money in Health Services. Abel Smith. 1976.
- European Health Interview Survey 2008 (Malta) - Summary Statistics (Ministry for Social Policy 2009)
- European Health Interview Survey 2008 (Malta) - Utilisation of Health Care Services (Ministry for Social Policy 2009)
- Documents at Web site of the Public Health Regulation Division at
- Other material distributed during the study-unit.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (2 Hours) Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Francis Agius
Charles Pace
Raymond G. Xerri (Co-ord.)

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2016/7, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.

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