UCL Health Humanities Centre


Philosophy, Politics and Economics of Health MA

Philosophy, Politics and Economics of Health course aims to equip students to play an informed role in debates concerning equity and health. It explores the central ethical, economic and political problems facing health policy in the UK and globally, especially in relation to social justice. The course will covers relevant areas of moral and political theory, economics, and political and historical analysis, to allow students to come to a wide understanding of background issues, history and constraints, in order to be able to make a positive contribution to current debates.

The course will be of interest to those wishing to specialise in this area, with a background in medicine, in social science or philosophy. It will also be of interest to those already working in the health service, whether in a managerial, policy or medical role. The course is available in full-time, part-time and flexible study.

Programme Structure

The programme is composed of courses to a value of 180 units. All students must take:

  1. Philosophy Politics and Economics of Health 
  2. Health Policy and Reform
  3. Key Principles of Health Economics
  4. Dissertation

Details of core modules

  • Philosophy Politics and Economics of Health (15 credits). This module examines some central ethical, economic and political problems facing health policy in the UK and abroad, especially in relation to social justice. Topics covered include: the allocation of scarce healthcare resources; the appropriate role of the state in protecting and promoting health (e.g. obesity and public policy); health inequalities and inequities; screening and risk; and special challenges posed by infectious diseases.
  • Health Policy and Reform (15 credits). This module provides a comparative examination of health reform. It enables students to analyse different kinds of health systems and reforms, and their likely health, financial and political effects consequences. The main aims of the module are: to enable students to describe and analyse health systems in terms of basic financial, organisational, political, professional and health parameters; to review the impact of common types of health reforms, taking into account the domestic environment; to identify factors likely to affect health systems in the future (e.g. demographic and technological change; globalisation).
  • Key Principles of Health Economics (15 credits). This course introduces key concepts in health economics using the foundations of economic theory, and then applies that theory to health and health markets.  It enables participants to understand how demand and supply interact, how markets work and why they fail, and to identify the main methods of health financing. Students also learn how to critically use economic evaluation evidence (cost effectiveness, cost utility and cost benefit analyses).
  • Dissertation (60 credits). All students do a extended dissertation (up to 12,000 words) on a topic of their choosing. Recent dissertation topics include: the Human Right to Health, the Ethics of Health Nudges, the Ethics of Humanitarian Assistance, Access to Essential Medicines, and the Doctors' Duties to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance.


Students may choose their remaining 75 credits from the list of suggested modules below, or other relevant modules in UCL, with the approval of the convenor. Available options modules may slightly from year to year, depending on staff availability. Please note that some modules fill up very quickly, so places cannot be guaranteed.

  • PHILGA04 Global Justice and Health
  • HHUMG002 and HHUMG003 Illness
  • HHUMG001 Madness
  • LAWSG176 Bioethics Governance
  • LAWSG068 Comparative Human Rights Law
  • MEDCG005 Ethics and Regulation of Research
  • ANTHGD12 Medical Anthropology 
  • MEDCG005 Ethics and Regulation of Research 
  • PUBLGL08 Contemporary Political Philosophy 1: Authority, Obligation and Democracy
  • PUBLGL09 Contemporary Political Philosophy 2: Social Justice and Equality
  • HPSCGA47 Responsible Science and Innovation 
  • ANTHGS03 Risk, Power And Uncertainty 
  • HISTG012A Classical Chinese Medicine 
  • HISTGC06: Chinese Film, Medicine and the Body 
  • PUBLG054 Political Economy of Development 
  • PUBLG037 Public Ethics
  • EUROG023 and EUROG023A Politics and Ethics 
  • EUROGG13 Gender, Sexuality and Cultural Politics: Feminist Epistemology and the Ethics of Representation 
  • EUROGG14 Global Politics of Gender and Sexuality: Militarisation, War and Violence 
  • PUBLG007 The ethics of poverty
  • LAWSG142 Law and Governance of Global Health
  • PUBLG081 Global Ethics 
  • CIHDG038 Conflict, Humanitarianism and Health 
  • CIHDG040 Anthropological Perspectives on Global Health 
  • ANTHGD11 Anthropology And Psychiatry
  • HPSCGA20 Science and Medicine across Medieval Worlds 
  • ECONG052 Ethics in Welfare Economics. 
  • EPIDGS42 Health inequalities over the lifecourse 

For further details, please contact Dr James Wilson.

Suggested Reading

Here are some suggestions for pre-course reading. All of these should be fairly accessible.

  • Jonathan Wolff, Ethics and Public Policy: a Philosophical Inquiry (Routledge, 2012)
  • Nigel Crisp, Turning the world upside down - the search for global health in the 21st century (CRC, 2010)
  • Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End. (Profile Books, 2014)
  • Greg Bognar and Iwao Hirose, The Ethics of Health Care Rationing: An Introduction. (Routledge, 2014)
  • Michael Marmot, Status Syndrome: How Your Social Standing Directly Affects Your Health and Life Expectancy (Bloomsbury, 2004)
  • Stephen Holland, Public health ethics (Polity, 2007)
  • Dan Brock, “Ethical Issues in Cost-effectiveness analysis”
  • Gold, Stevenson and Fryback, “HALYS AND QALYS AND DALYS, OH MY: Similarities and Differences in Summary Measures of Population Health”, (2002)


For information about applications and to apply for the MA Philosophy, Politics and Economics of Health follow this link.

Admitting Department: Centre for Multicultural and Interdisciplinary Inquiry

For further details, contact Dr James Wilson (james.wilson@ucl.ac.uk)