Spring 2020 - HSCI 891 G100

Special Topics in Health Sciences (3)


Class Number: 7106

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    BLU 9920, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    John Calvert
    1 778 782-8163



Special topics in areas not currently covered within the graduate program offerings.


The course will deal with the public policy process with an emphasis on how it shapes decision making on health and healthcare issues. It will be offered as a 3 hour seminar once a week. It will involve both individual and group work, as well as extensive class dicussions on a variety of policy issues. It will also draw upon the expertise of several guest speakers with knowledge and/or direct experience in specirfic policy areas. While the instructor will deliver some lectures, much of the course activity will be carried out by class members, primarily through their group assignments. A key element of the course will to examine various theories of the policy process drawing on resources from political science, policy theory and policy analysis. This will provide a basis for the examination of a variety of specific policy issues that influence health outcomes. Another component of the course will be to examine contextual factors that influence the policy process with the view to arrive at a deeper understanding of how governments decide to pursue - or not - specific policy choices, including factors that shape those choices. The course will incorporate a critical political economy approach in the way it analyzes policy making, focusing on the role of power and power relationships in shaping policy outcomes. By the end of the course, students will also have had the opportunity to explore and expand their knowledge of public policy theory and its relevance to analyzing major policy areas and issues.


Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:
1. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various public policy theories with a particular focus on their relevance to population health and health care decision making.
2. Describe and analyze the policy processes that shape health policy decision making with an emphasis on the political aspects of these processes, including power relationships
3. Analyze how governments include - or fail to include - health policy considerations in their decision making processes
4. Analyze the roles of policy actors, institutions, ideologies and other factors in shaping policy decisions
5. Carry out an analysis of the way the policy process shapes decisions in a number of specific health policy areas
6. Examine a number of specific policy issues of particular relevance to population health, including climate change, child care, primary health care and pharmaceutical regulation
7. Develop the capacity to work collaboratively in groups, organize and deliver class presentations and learn how to discuss and debate major policy issues in a large group
8. Acquire skills associated with participating in advocacy activities intended to shape policy outcomes


  • Mid=term exam 20%
  • Final exam 25%
  • Group presentations 20%
  • Term paper 25%
  • Participation 10%


This seminar is a 'slash' course that will include 4th year health science students interested in the topic area. Graduate students will have to meet a higher standard of performance in the class and this will be reflected in their assignments throughout the term.


As per FHS graduate requirements



The course will primarily rely on a selection of peer reviewed journal articles available through SFU's library system an chosen by the instructor. In addition, it will include some government documents and non-peer reviewed articles from NGOs, policy think tanks and advocacy groups. There will also be a selection of A/V materials.


There is no assigned text. The weekly readings will be from journal articles available from the electronic journal system of SFU's Library.

Supplemental readings will be posted on Canvas

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html