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Health Economics

Julia Ngozi Chukwuma
Summer Academy 2022 for Pluralist Economics, 2022
Level: beginner
Perspectives: Ecological Economics, Feminist Economics, Marxian Political Economy, Neoclassical Economics, Post-Keynesian Economics
Topic: Other
Format: Syllabus

This workshop was originally taught at the Summer Academy for Pluralist Economics 2022
Instructor: Julia Ngozi Chukwuma (The Open University, UK)

Short description 

Health Economics traditionally involves two distinct strands. One focuses on the application of core  neoclassical economic theories of the firm, the consumer and the market to health-seeking behaviour  and other health issues. It suggests a role for government intervention only in the case of specific  market failures (for example externalities, asymmetric information, moral hazard, and public goods)  that distort market outcomes. The second strand is evaluation techniques, used to assess the cost effectiveness of competing health interventions.  

However, these two strands apply only one version of economics – neoclassical economics – to health,  and do so in a problematic way. In this workshop we aim to critically engage with Health Economics,  rooted in neo-classical economic theory, and to present and discuss alternative perspectives relevant  to global public health. These include Keynesian, political economy, feminist and ecological  perspectives, paying more attention to health inequalities and planetary health. We will touch upon topics such as the shift from the movement for comprehensive primary healthcare throughout the  1970s to the promotion of selective primary healthcare with the ascendency of neo-liberalism in the  1980s to contemporary calls for Universal Health Coverage; the colonial roots and practices of global  public health; the increasing reliance on the private sector in healthcare delivery; as well as public  policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Julia Ngozi Chukwuma (The Open University, UK) 

  • Julia is a Lecturer in Economics at the Open University. Her work focuses on the political economy of  health policy development and implementation and global efforts to achieve Universal Health  Coverage. She is interested in understanding how different interest groups, such as policymakers, civil  society organisations, communities, health professionals or international organisations shape a  healthcare system and influence how healthcare services are delivered and who can ultimately access  them. Her research approach is rooted in understanding the political context in which policies are  developed, the causes of economic and social realities within a certain country-context (with a  particular focus on Nigeria) as well as issues of inequality and power. Prior to joining the Open  University, Julia taught at Queen Mary University of London, SOAS and Goldsmiths University. She also  worked with UNICEF’s social policy and emergency teams in Burundi, Mali and Senegal. 

Kevin Deane (The Open University, UK) 

  • Kevin is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Open University. He is an interdisciplinary specialist in  Economics, Political Economy and International Development. His research interests focus on the  political economy of health with an application to the HIV epidemic in Eastern and Southern Africa.  He has worked on a range of topics related to HIV including gender, migration, workplace  programmes, HIV testing and the relationship between socio-economic status and HIV. He is also  interested in the political and social determinants of malaria. He is primarily a qualitative researcher  with experience of conducting fieldwork in East Africa. Prior to his role at the Open University, Kevin worked as Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Global Public Health at Queen Mary University of London, and  as Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in International Development at the University of Northampton. He is a  Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

Course overview 

Course outline


 Syllabus and resources

Prior to workshop 

 Introduction to the Economics of Health 

  • Please read the following: Chukwuma and Deane (2022), Economics and Global Health, In:  La Placa and Morgan [Eds.], Social Science Perspectives on Global Public Health, Routledge. [Link to chapter to will be provided in due time] 
  •  Please watch the following video: History of Global Public Health 
  • Additional reading if you have time: Birn and Richter (2018), U.S. Philanthrocapitalism and  the Global Health Agenda, In: Waitkin, H. [Ed.], Health Care under the Knife: Moving  Beyond Capitalism for Our Health, Monthly Review Press.

Session 1 – Lecture 

Saturday, 30 July 2022 


 LECTURE 1: Introduction to the Economics of Health 

  • Introduction of convenors, workshop objectives, roadmap of workshop 
  • Introduction to and intersections between economics and health 
  • Health inequalities and the social gradient of health 
  • Social determinants of health and political economy approaches to health
  • Universal Health Coverage and today’s global health architecture 
  • Introduction to the workshop project

Session 2 – Self-study 

Saturday, 30 July 2022 


 Markets and Health 

  • Please watch the following video: Ted Talk by Emilie Oster - watch from the beginning to  6mins 55 seconds in as this is the key ‘economic’ section of interest  
  • Please watch this short clip: Discussion on patents 
  • Please read the following paper: Alcott, Lockwood and Taubinsky (2019), Should we tax  Sugar-Sweetened Beverages? An overview of Theory and Evidence, Journal of Economic  Perspectives, No.3, p. 202-227. 

 Guiding questions: 

  1. Which neo-classical economic concepts appear in these videos and readings?
  2. How can economics help us explain health outcomes?

Session 3 – Lecture 

Saturday, 30 July 2022 


 LECTURE 2: Markets and Health 

  • Neo-classical economic approaches to framing health 
  • Firms, markets and industries in the healthcare sector of the economy 
  • Market failure and the role of the State

Session 4 – Self-study 

Sunday, 1 August 2022 


 Health-seeking behaviour 

  • Please watch the following video: Ted Talk by Dan Gilbert 
  • Please read an extract of the following paper: Kahneman, D (2003), Maps of Bounded  Rationality: Psychology for Behavioural Economics, The American Economic Review, Vol. 93, No. 5 – please read pages 1449-1452 (introduction and section I). 
  • Please read the following: Soofi et al. (2020), Using Insights from Behavioral Economics to  Mitigate the Spread of COVID‑19, Applied Health Economics and Health Policy. 

 Guiding questions: 

  1.  What are key ideas of behavioural economics? 
  2. How can insights from behavioural economics help us improve public health policy?

Session 5 – Lecture 

Sunday, 1 August 2022 


 LECTURE 3: Health-seeking behaviour 

  • Concept of bounded rationality 
  • Nudging or fudging?
  • Behavioural economics and COVID-19

 Session 6 – Project 

Sunday, 1 August 2022 


 Phase A: Select a health issue [see project brief] 

  • What health issue do you want to discuss/address? Where? Case studies?
  • How might economists think about the health issue?

Session 7 – Self-study 

Monday, 2 August 2022 10:30-12:00

 Political Economy of health and capitalism 

 Guiding questions: 

  1. Can you think of contemporary examples of the impact of working conditions on health? 2. What might be the effect of capitalism on health?

Session 8 – Lecture 

Monday, 2 August 2022 13:00-14:30

 LECTURE 4: Political Economy of health and capitalism 

  • Introduction to the labour theory of value 
  • Capitalism and working conditions in the Global South 
  • Capitalism and mental health 
  • Systems of Provision: food and healthcare

Session 9 – Project 

Monday, 2 August 2022 15:00-16:30

 Phase B: Develop a project plan [see project brief] 

  • What activities are needed to advocate for the health issue to be addressed?
  • Who does what?

Session 10 – Self-study 

Tuesday, 3 August 2022 10:30-12:00

 Gender and health 

 Guiding questions: 

  1. What do you think could make women more susceptible to HIV? 
  2. How is empowerment theorised in the context of cash transfers and are there other ways to think  about empowerment?

Session 11 – Lecture 

Tuesday, 3 August 2022 13:00-14:30

 LECTURE 5: Gender and health 

  • Structural processes shaping health outcomes 
  • Gender and HIV/Aids 
  • Introduction to social reproduction theory 
  • Cash transfers

Session 12 – Project 

Tuesday, 2 August 2022 15:00-16:30

 Phase C: Project implementation [see project brief]

Session 13 – Project 

Wednesday, 3 August 2022 10:30-12:00

 Phase C: Project implementation [see project brief]

Session 14 – Project 

Wednesday, 3 August 2022 13:00-14:30

 Feedback session: Present project and advocacy campaign [see project brief]

Session 15 – Project 

Wednesday, 3 August 2022 15:00-16:30

 Part C: Project implementation [see project brief]

Wrap-up session 

Thursday, 4 August 2022 10:30-12:00

 Wrap-up session 

  • Discussion on outstanding issues 
  • Reflections


Download syllabus here


This project is brought to you by the Network for Pluralist Economics (Netzwerk Plurale Ökonomik e.V.).  It is committed to diversity and independence and is dependent on donations from people like you. Regular or one-off donations would be greatly appreciated.