Personal Professional Development (Public Health and Primary Care) / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Introduction to Health Policy

Unit code POPH65052
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Division of Population Health, Health Services Research and Primary Care
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit provides an introduction to health policy, including approaches to policymaking, policy analysis, and its evaluation. The unit is of relevance to a range of professions within health and care services, the wider public services, and those interested in public policy at the local, national and international scale. This extends to NHS staff, local authorities, the voluntary sector, non-government agencies, policy think-tanks, and consultancies in the health policy world. The course complements existing units on ‘Health Services Management’, ‘Implementation Sciences’, and ‘UK Leadership and Public Health Strategy’. It is unique in providing techniques for evaluating policy and offering students an opportunity to design an outline for their own policy evaluation. This unit is relevant internationally, using both core case studies and inviting examples of health policies from students’ own contexts, in order to apply and test concepts from the course in relation to different international settings.  

This is an interactive online course. Students must work through, and reflect on, the online course material independently. Students are expected to engage in weekly discussion boards with their peers and tutors. 10% of the total marks for this course will be awarded for assessed group discussion board activity. You must participate in these group discussions during weeks 1,3,4,5,7,9 of the course to access these marks.Students are also encouraged to engage with the Blackboard discussion boards to ask questions, give feedback to one another, and check their understanding of key concepts and methods introduced during the course unit.


  • To gain a critical understanding of key concepts for analysing and evaluating health policy.
  • To be able to apply public policy concepts to ‘real world’ case studies of health policy, including examples from the students’ own context or professional experiences.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit, successful members of the course will be able to:

  • Describe a range of theories of the policy making process;
  • Analyse the geographic, economic, social and political contexts of policy;
  • Compare models by which policies are transferred;
  • Apply implementation models, inc. barriers and enablers, to case studies;
  • Design a policy evaluation;
  • Discuss how policies are evaluated with others.


  • What is policy? Theoretical ideas shaping the nature of policy and policymaking; what constitutes policy and how it is made; conceptual framework with which other aspects of ‘policymaking’ can be understood, including its implementation and evaluation.
  • Policy context: The meaning of the term ‘context’ in relation to policy; demographic, economic, social and political contexts of policy; influence of international, national and regional/local contexts on policy.
  • How and why policy is made: models used by policy analysts to make sense of the business of making policy; ‘stages’ model of the policy process; policy ‘streams’ and ‘windows’; policy cycles; and factors influencing the policy agenda.
  • Policy transfer: Differing ways in which policy is transferred; how policy may be transferred; conditions which help / hinder policy transfer. 
  • Policy implementation models: Identify and appreciate different models used for implementing health policy (top-down, bottom-up and two-way models).
  • Barriers to implementing policy: Identify some of the many potential barriers to implementation of health policies.
  • Evaluation approaches: Definitions of evaluation; why evaluation might be undertaken; main types of evaluation.
  • Evaluation design: Philosophical approaches to evaluation and the practical issues that arise in performing evaluation; designing a policy evaluation, understanding the complexities and issues involved.
  • Why policy interventions work or fail: complexity of policymaking and policy analysis; judgements of ‘success’ or ‘failure’ depend upon underlying assumptions about how society works and of human behaviour; critically evaluating policy interventions.

Teaching and learning methods

This course unit has a high degree of self-directed learning including exercises and assignments which involve active reflection, reading, peer-led discussions, and applying concepts to ‘real world’ examples of health policy. This includes engaging with core case studies of health policies introduced during the course unit and being encouraged to reflect on and discuss examples from the students’ own context and professional experiences.  Formative feedback during the unit is given in a variety of ways including discussion board activities (with peer and tutor comments) and in response to ‘policy’ podcasts. Some of the assessment is linked to student participation throughout the course as this is a key aspect of learning (e.g. encouraging critical thinking about, and informed discussion of, health policy problems).

All students will be provided with written feedback in relation to the mid and final summative assignments.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students will be introduced to range of concepts for analysing policymaking, and use these to reflect on `real world¿ policy case studies and apply learning to examples from their own context.
Group/team working
Students will be encouraged to share and discuss their academic learning, and practical experiences, concerning policymaking with each other and the tutors.
Students will have the opportunity to produce a plan for evaluating a policy initiative, inc. purpose, methods, outcome measures & political considerations.

Assessment methods

Assessment task



Weighting within Unit

Course participation

Contributions to discussion boards N/A


Midterm assignment Written assignment 1,000 words


Final assignment Written assignment 3,000 words



Feedback methods

Students will be provided with personalised feedback for their mid-term and final summative assignments, within 15 working days for mid-term assignments and 20 working days for final submission. 

Further opportunities for formative feedback (on non-assessed work) will also be provided during a course unit.

Recommended reading

Michael H. and Varone F. (2016) The Public Policy Process, 7th Edition, Routledge. ISBN-10:1138909505.

Buse K, Mays N, and Walt G. (2012) Making Health Policy (Understanding Public Health), 2nd Edition. Open University Press. ISBN-10:0335246346.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Marcello Morciano Unit coordinator

Additional notes

If you have any questions about the content of this unit, please contact the course unit leader, Marcello Morciano, via email on If you have any other queries, please contact the PGT programme administrators via email on

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