Course Syllabus

Public Health Policy in Practice

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2019 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Public Health, Pre-Medicine/Health Science

Faculty Members:

Nora Döring and Rachel Irwin

Program Director:

Susana Dietrich

Time & Place:

Mondays and Thursdays, 11:40-13:00, 1D-509



Nora Döring

MSc in Epidemiology and MSc in European Public Health from Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Research fellow in health politics at Maastricht University (2011-2013). Since 2013 doctoral student in the department of Public Health Sciences at the Karolinska Institutet with a research focus on the prevention and societal consequences of childhood obesity. With DIS since 2017.


Rachel Irwin
PhD. Social Anthropology (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, 2014). MSc. International Health Policy (London School of Economics and Political Science, 2008). Postdoctoral research fellow in medical humanities at Lund University (2016-present). Researcher in global health at Karolinska Institutet (2014-2016) Researcher in health, development and security at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) (2011-2016). Research assistant in health policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (2007-2011). With DIS since 2016.

Course Description

Sweden is facing a number of current challenges, including achieving cost-effectiveness in health care, and addressing public health concerns relating to migration and increasing inequalities. This course provides an overview of the Swedish health system, in relation to the broader welfare state, and in relation to other Scandinavian and European countries. Through a number of case studies, students will gain insight into how Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden, assess public health challenges through research, economic evaluation, and an equity & rights-based perspective. Furthermore, students will explore, analyze, and discuss how public health policies are developed and implemented in practice.


Expected Learning Outcomes

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Analyze, explain and discuss the Swedish health care system and welfare state
  • Compare the Swedish system with other European and high-income countries, such as the US and Canada
  • Compare and discuss different policy options for addressing current public health challenges in Sweden
  • Discuss the use of research and economic evaluation in setting health policy
  • Assess performance and quality across health systems
  • Reflect on how policies are implemented in practice


Teaching Methods

Different teaching formats will be used. The course may be a mix of interactive lectures, class discussions, group work, student presentations and peer feedback. A major part of the course will be based on debating issues, and students are expected to engage actively in oral presentations, discussions, group work and exercises.


Field Studies

Two field studies are planned.  1) The first is a healthy cities walk around Stockholm.  The second is to (2) Stockholm County Council, where students will investigate the challenges facing county health authorities.  Further information regarding the visits will be provided as the dates approach. The field visit sites are subject to change.


Evaluation and Grading

To be eligible for a passing grade in this class all of the assigned work must be completed.

Late assignments will be accepted, but the grade for the paper will be reduced.

The factors influencing the final grade and the proportional importance of each factor is shown below:


Component Weight
Participation and engagement 20%
Mid-term quiz 30%
Group project on human resources for health 25%
Showcase poster 25%


Participation and engagement

Participation is measured in regards to both attendance and academic activity level during class

Mid-term quiz

The mid-term quiz will take approximately half of class time. It will cover topics from lectures 1-7.

Group project on human resources for health

In groups of 3-5, students will prepare a 1000-word report on human resources for health, which they will present in class.

Working with others is an important element of preparation for the labor market, where group work is the rule rather than the exception, and this group project will contribute to the development of collaborative skills.

Showcase poster

In groups, students will design a poster for the Academic Showcase at the end of the term


Expectations of Students & Code of Conduct

  • Laptops may be used for note‐taking, fact‐checking, or assignment in the classroom, but only when indicated by the instructor. At all other times laptops and electronic devices should be put away during class time.
  • Reading must be done prior to the class session; a huge part of the class is dependent on discussions in class.
  • Students need to be present and participating to receive full credit. The final grade will be affected by unexcused absences and lack of participation. Remember to be in class on time!
  • Classroom etiquette includes being respectful of other opinions, listening to others and entering a dialogue in a constructive manner.
  • Students are expected to ask relevant questions in regards to the material covered.


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:

 DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -

DIS Contacts

Mark Peters, Academic Coordinator, 
Bettina Hornbøll, Science & Health Assistant Program Director,
Susana Dietrich, Science & Health Program Director,

Required Readings

 *Specific readings are assigned for each class session.  Please see the individual Canvas page for each class.


Anell A, Glenngård AH, Merkur, S. (2012) Sweden: Health system review. Health Systems in Transition. WHO Regional Office for Europe.

Greer, S., Wismar, M. et al.  (2016) Strengthening Health System Governance. WHO, McGraw-Hill and Open University Press.

Papanicolas, I.  and Smith, P.C. (2013) Health system performance comparison: An agenda for policy, information and research.  WHO, McGraw-Hill and Open University Press. 


Specific chapters in textbooks 

  • Buse, K., Mays, N., Walt, G. (2012) Making Health Policy. McGraw-Hill and Open University Press.
  • Carneiro, I. and Howard, N., 2011 Introduction to Epidemiology. 2nd Edition. McGraw-Hill and Open University Press.
  • Guinness, L. and Wiseman, V. (2011) Introduction to Health Economics, 2nd Ed. Open University Press.
  • Walshe, K. and Smith, J. (2011) Healthcare Management. Open University Press.



Agardh, E.E., Danielsson, A-K., et al. (2016) Alcohol-attributed disease burden in four Nordic countries: a comparison using the Global Burden of Disease, Injuries and Risk Factors 2013 study.  Addiction. Online first.

Banta, D. (2009) What is health technology assessment?  International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care. 25 (Suppl. S1):7-9.

Braveman, P. and Gruskin, S. (2003) Defining Equity in Health. J Epidemiology Community Health. 57: 254-257.

Eurohealth (2014) Special section on migrants and health. 20(4). 3-19.

Gilliver et al. (2014) Recent research on the mental health of immigrants to Sweden: a literature review. European Journal of Public Health.  24(Suppl 1):72-79

Grepstad, M. and Kanavos, P. (2015) A comparative analysis of coverage decisions for outpatient pharmaceuticals: Evidence from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Health Policy. 119 (2015):203-211

Hildingsson, I. and Fenwick, J. (2015) Swedish midwives’ perception of their practice environment – A cross sectional study. Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare. 6 (2015) 174–181

Hjern, A. (2012) Migration and public health. Health in Sweden: The National Public Health Report 2012. Chapter 13. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 40(Suppl 9): 255–267

Högberg, U. (2004) The Decline in Maternal Mortality in Sweden. American Journal of Public Health. 94 (8):1312-1320.

Jonsson, E. (2009) History of Health Technology Assessment in Sweden. International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health care. 25 (Suppl. S1):42-52.

Källberg, A-S., Göransson, K.E, et al. (2013) Medical errors and complaints in emergency department care in Sweden as reported by care providers, healthcare staff, and patients – a national review. European Journal of Emergency Medicine 20(1):33-38

Markström and Lindqvist (2015) Establishment of Community Mental Health Systems in a Postdeinstitutional Era: A Study of Organizational Structures and Service Provision in Sweden. Journal of Social Work in Disability and Rehabilitation.  14(2):124-144

Marmot, M. (2005) Social Determinants of health inequities. Lancet. 365 (9464): 1099-1104.

Nygren, M., Roback, K., et al. (2013) Factors influencing patient safety in Sweden: perceptions of patient safety officers in the county councils. BMC Health Services Research. 13(52).

Ramesh, R. (2012) Private Healthcare: the lessons from Sweden. The Guardian. 18 December 2012.

Raninen, J., Härkönen, J. and Landberg, J. (2016) Long-term effects of changes in Swedish alcohol policy: can alcohol policies effective during adolescence impact consumption during adulthood? Addiction. 111:1021-1026.

Schrecker, T. (2016a) Neoliberal epidemics’ and public health: sometimes the world is less complicated than it appears. Critical Public Health.  Online first.

Schrecker, T. (2016b) Neoliberalism and health: the linkages and the dangers.  Sociology Compass 10(10): 952–971

Svanborg-Sjövall, K. (2014) Swedish healthcare is the best in the world, but there are still lessons to learn. The Guardian. 2 January 2014. 

Towse, A., Pistollato, M., et al (2015)  European Union Pharmaceutical Markets: A Case for Differential Pricing?  International Journal of the Economics of Business. 22 (2):263-275




Course Summary:

Date Details