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You are here Postgraduate > MSc in Comparative Social Change > Course Structure and Handbook

Comparing Healthcare Systems

Module Code: SPOL40470 (UCD)

  • ECTS Credit : 10
  • Mandatory/ Optional : Optional
  • Module Coordinator : Dr Naonori Kodate, School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, UCD

Module Description:

Taking a comparative approach, with a particular focus on industrial advanced economies, this module aims to introduce the students to the workings of the healthcare systems in different societies, while providing a strong background in the analytical frameworks of comparative social policy. Healthcare systems often share the fundamental collective values and solidarity upon which the welfare state was constructed in the post-World War Two era. However, healthcare accounts for one of the largest proportions of public spending in every advanced industrial economy, and in times of economic downturn in ageing societies, reforming healthcare systems is considered necessary and inevitable. Therefore, the balance between equal access to healthcare services and ensuring a high quality of care is under great strain in contemporary industrially advanced democracies. Through comparative study of different healthcare systems, this course seeks to develop a critical awareness of the key debates in policy reforms, e.g. the role of government and other actors such as the private sector, healthcare professionals and users. Highlighting factors which bring about convergence and divergence across countries, the comparability of different healthcare systems will also be examined. Themes covered in the course include the historical foundations of different healthcare systems; similarities and differences in the way healthcare is financed, provided and regulated; contemporary debates on healthcare reforms such as economic sustainability, erosion of universal  access, quality improvement, patient safety, medical tourism and migration  of healthcare professionals.

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of the module students should be able to:

  • Critically explain the structure of healthcare systems in industrially advanced economies;
  • Critically discuss major economic, political and sociological issues involved in the organisation, production and financing of healthcare services, both  nationally and internationally;
  • Analyse the roles of professionals, users and researchers in the making, implementation and evaluation of health policy through the use of case studies.

Lectures & Tutorials/ Contact hours:

  • Module Length: 11 weeks (Hilary Term)
  • Workload: Readings: 70hrs; Summative assessment (e.g. essays, journals): 130hrs. Total: 200 hours

Recommended Texts

Key Reading:

  • Blank, R.H. and Burau, V. (2010) Comparative health policy. Palgrave Macmillan. 
  • Daniels.N. (2008) Just health: Meeting health needs fairly. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Johnson, J.A. & Stoskopf, C.H. (2010) Comparative health systems: Global perspectives. Sudbury, MA, Jones and Bartlett Publishers.  


  • 3,500 word end of term essay: 90%
  • Individual presentation and class participation: 10%