Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

POPLHLTH 311 - Shaping Health Policy

15 Points

Semester 1


This course investigates recent changes to the ways in which governments seek to intervene to improve a population's health. New Zealand case studies will be used to illustrate the interrelationships between research, policy and practice in a devolved health system and the changing relationships between government agencies and health providers.


Prerequisite: POPLHLTH 202

Course outline

The course is primarily based on concepts and ideas drawn from the study of public policy and public administration and management. These areas of study are under the broad umbrella of the academic discipline of political studies, but also draw from the fields of sociology, economics and geography. The concepts and insights of policy studies are useful in understanding the policy issues that are of major concern to those interested in public health and health care services. As such, this course also connects public policy concepts and ideas to material drawn from health-specific areas such as epidemiology and health services research.

Key course objectives

At the conclusion of the course the student should have an understanding of:

  • The broad factors that shape public policy processes and outcomes relevant to health
  • The respective roles of different policy actors (government organisations, interest groups, non-government organisations) in the development and implementation of policy
  • How interorganisational relationships operate in practice
  • Key issues relevant to policy implementation and evaluation

The student will also be expected to have acquired skills in:

  • Independent research into a policy issue
  • Developing structured, coherent arguments supported by research
  • Summarising and critiquing academic literature 

Course structure

The course has two one-hour lectures and one one-hour tutorial each week.

Lecture schedule






Introducing Policy and Health


Part I: What shapes policy?

Policy problems and solutions



Values and policy



Research and policy



The interplay of values and research



Agenda setting: Why do some problems and solutions get attention, and not others?



Policy Actors and Interests



Interests and Power


Part II: Making policy happen through interorganisational relationships

How does policy get made?



Government organisations



Non-government organisations



Interorganisational relationships – the key issues



Accountability relationships - Contracts



Accountability relationships – Outputs, outcomes and processes



Collaborative relationships I



Collaborative relationships II



Guest lecture: interorganisational relationships



Part II conclusion


Part III: Policy Learning and Evaluation

What is policy success and policy learning?



Performance management and success 



Policy implementation



Policy evaluation 






Course summary and exam preparation

Course assessment

Assignment 1: 25%

Assignment 2: 30%

One tutorial test on required readings: 5%

Final examination: 40% 

Recommended readings/textbooks

There are no prescribed textbooks for this course. A list of required readings is given for each week.  These can be accessed through the library course page.

Other recommended readings will be advised via Canvas

Reference material

The following books are available on short loan:

  • Baggott, R. (2007). Understanding Health Policy. Bristol: Policy Press.

  • Buse, K., N. Mays, et al. (2012). Making Health Policy. (2nd ed.) Maidenhead, Open University Press.

  • Crinson, I. (2009). Health Policy: A Critical Perspective. London: Sage.

  • Gauld, R. (2009). The New Health Policy. Maidenhead, Open University Press.

  • Shaw, R & C. Eichbaum (2011). Public Policy in New Zealand: Institutions, Processes and Outcomes, (3rd edition) Auckland: Pearson., Chapter 6.

  • Glasby, J (2011) Evidence, Policy and Practice: Critical Perspectives in Health and Social Care. Bristol, Policy Press.

Course Director