MRes Primary Care (Web-based Learning) / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Health Economics

Unit code POPH60091
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Division of Population Health, Health Services Research and Primary Care
Available as a free choice unit? No


The demand for healthcare is rising all the time for many reasons, and mostly outstrips supply. This means hard choices have to be made about how to distribute resources in health care. Economic evaluation provides information to support decision makers to allocate resources to improve the efficiency of health systems, in a way that gives the most benefit for the population. This unit will benefit anyone with an interest in planning or managing health services or involved in health service research.

The first part of the course (Topics 1-5) covers the basic principles and concepts. The second half (Topics 6-9) looks at how these are translated into economic evaluations. Topic 10 discusses guidelines for the practice and critical appraisal of economic evaluation.

This is an interactive online course. Students must work through the online course material. Students are encouraged to use the Blackboard discussion boards to ask questions and check their understanding of the course material.


Pre-requisites for this course are that you have an understanding of quantitative evaluation methods in health services research and have successfully completed one of the following course units: Fundamentals of Epidemiology, Practical Statistics for Population Health (Biostatistics) or similar.

If you have not completed one of the above units, but believe that you can show evidence of the required knowledge and understanding expected when taking this course unit, please contact the MPH Admin team ( to discuss this.

PLEASE NOTE: This unit is the same as Health Economics (POPH 60092), as the unit runs in both semesters. Students will be unable to choose both instances, as it covers the same content.



To enable participants to: understand the principles of health economics, structure an economic evaluation and appraise and apply economic evaluation evidence to decision-making in practice.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

  • Appraise the relevance of health economics to health care and understand issues of scarcity and rationing
  • Explain the key principles and components of economic evaluations
  • Analyse cost and outcome data to complete an economic analysis
  • Apply the use of decision analysis to the design of economic evaluations
  • Produce a focused and answerable economic question that can be addressed using primary or secondary data sources
  • Apply guidelines to published economic evaluations and appraise the validity and relevance of that research
  • Interpret published economic evaluations and assess their role in decision-making, and barriers to their use 


  • Introduction to health economics and rationing
  • The nature and assessment of cost in health care
  • Introduction to measuring patient outcomes for use in economic evaluations
  • Types of economic evaluation and key principles 1
  • Types of economic evaluation and key principles 2
  • Collecting economic evidence
  • Decision analysis 1
  • Decision analysis 2
  • Measurement and valuation of preferences
  • Using guidelines to assess the quality of economic evidence

Teaching and learning methods

This is a very practical unit. Students work independently through each topic. At the end of most topics there are self-assessment exercises to check you have assimilated core aspects of that topic's material. There is also regular online discussion with your fellow students which is e-moderated by the module leader. Two non-compulsory webinars will be held if the demand is sufficient.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students will demonstrate analytical skills through their ability to cost and use outcome data in example economic analyses
Students will be equipped with the knowledge and skills required to enable them to understand how researchers collect and use economic evidence for economic evaluation. They will plan an economic evaluation and will formulate ideas to build on existing research
Students will critically appraise economic evaluations to assess the strengths and limitations of studies, as well as to consider the generalisability of studies to other settings

Assessment methods

Assessment task


Weighting within unit (if relevant)

Midterm Assignment:

1,000 words


Final Assignment:

3,000 words


This unit is assessed by asking students to design an economic evaluation of an intervention (midterm assignment, 1000 words 20%). In the final assignment, students are asked to apply what they have learnt. This is by producing a detailed summary and critical appraisal of an economic evaluation and an outline design for a research study to address the limitations identified (final assignment, 3000 words 80%).

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

Elementary Economic Evaluation in Health Care* (Required reading) Jefferson T, Demicheli V, Mugford M, ISBN 0727914782, 2000, BMJ Publishing Group * Now available online at the University Library

Methods for the Economic Evaluation of Health Care Programmes (Additional reading - more advanced) Drummond M, O’Brien B, Stoddart G, Torrance G, ISBN 0192627732, 1997 Oxford University Press

Penny Bee, Helen Brooks, Patrick Callaghan and Karina Lovell. A research handbook for patient and public involvement researchers (Chapter 5). eISBN: 9781526136527. Available at:

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Gemma Shields Unit coordinator

Additional notes

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

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