Health Systems

The Health Systems doctoral major provides a comprehensive understanding of the approaches and methods of political economy appropriate for health systems research in the international environment.  The major recognizes that professionals in health systems must be capable of doing advanced research and evaluating the quality and approach of research performed by others. To achieve this, students learn the frontier of knowledge about health systems, potential areas of new research, and methods appropriate for advancing knowledge and conducting significant research.

Students are trained to apply knowledge that addresses major health system questions such as:

  • How do changes in health system functions influence health system performance and achievement of goals?
  • What kinds of financing are appropriate for achieving goals shaped by different ethical values and under varied economic and social conditions?
  • Which payment mechanisms are effective in controlling healthcare costs and improving quality of healthcare services?
  • How can regulation make the private sector more responsive to public needs?
  • How do political structures and processes affect opportunities for adoption and implementation of health reforms?

A multidisciplinary approach is used to approach such questions, and is the foundation of the Health Systems major. While economics can provide insights into financing and payment issues, political science can help explain policy choices and consequences as well as assess the feasibility of proposed reforms.  In organizational design, political science and economics interact to understand how institutions can be organized and how such organizations respond to incentives.  Ethical choices are embedded in all these choices and shape what is appropriate for different settings.  To become experts in evidence-based policy-making, Health Systems doctoral students learn an advanced level of quantitative skills and methods in evaluation science, epidemiology and biostatistics, and their application to real-world health system problems.

Building knowledge about interdisciplinary approaches to health systems research is a demanding pursuit, requiring both a deep understanding of disciplinary expertise as well as contextual knowledge of health systems in different national settings.  The Health Systems major provides a solid disciplinary base for students, while developing skills in crossing disciplinary boundaries in order to analyze health system problems.  The major offers an advanced level of interdisciplinary training in political economy, economics and finance, political science, ethics, and evaluative science, along with a strong foundation of public health skills.  Through coursework and applied research, students learn to integrate theories and methods from various disciplines and apply them to analyze critical health system issues.

For more information related to Health Systems, please contact:
Rifat Atun (Head of Major)