Fall 2022 - HSCI 418 D100

Priority Setting in Health Care: Health Economics and Ethics in Practice (3)

Class Number: 2161

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    BLU 9021, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    90 units, two 200-level HSCI courses with a minimum grade of C-, or permission of the instructor.



Health economics and ethics underpin health care decision making in all health systems. This course examines economics and ethics principles used in setting priorities and allocating resources within health, including assessing evidence, stakeholder engagement, outcomes measurement, and organizational behavior. Students who have taken HSCI 471 under this topic in Spring 2019, Fall 2017, and Fall 2016 may not take this course for further credit.


COURSE TOPIC:   Priority Setting in Health Care.

Economics and ethics underpin health care decision making at all levels of the health system. As such, health care managers and clinical leaders require skills to set priorities and allocate resources in a manner which is both evidence-based and pragmatic noting the real world complexities of the health care ‘market’. The crucial point is that decision makers understand economic principles that underpin decision making and have a firm grasp on key ethical principles to ensure fairness and legitimacy when allocating scarce resources. This course provides students with an understanding of key economic and ethical principles, and how these principles can be applied practically in setting priorities and allocating resources within the health sector. As part of this, important aspects of health care decision-making including assessing relevant evidence, stakeholder engagement, benefit/outcomes measurement, incentives and organizational behavior are all addressed.


  • Introduce economic and ethical principles underlying health care decision making, and compare these principles with an ‘evidence-based medicine’ approach 
  • Discuss commonly used approaches to priority setting by health care decision makers both within Canada and elsewhere 
  • Discuss a practical guide to implementing a pragmatic framework for health care priority setting, including generating decision making criteria and involving relevant stakeholders 
  • Work through case studies and real world examples to illustrate key concepts and methods 
  • Discuss individual and organizational success factors related to improving priority setting and resource allocation practices
  • Design a process for priority setting in a health organization


  • Class participation 10%
  • Written assignments 60%
  • Final group exercise 30%


Class participation (10%): Students will be marked on their willingness to participate in class discussion and the degree to which their participation enhances discussion in the class.  

Written assignments (60%): Students will be required to write a two essays on challenges or issues or problem in the following topic areas: politics of priority setting; cancer care; drug decision making; public engagement; ethics of priority setting; health care disinvestment. Essays are to be a maximum of 2000 words and will be assessed in terms of both content (75% of the mark) and style (e.g., grammar, flow, ease of reading = 25% of the mark). Full details of assignments will be given during class. Late assignments will receive a penalty of 10% for every day the assignment is late.

Final group exercise (30%): Small groups will be charged with designing a priority setting process within real world health care constraints. Students will work in groups of 4-5 to produce an “executive briefing note” and then present on their findings. The group exercises will take place on the last two weeks of classes. Each person within a small group will receive the same grade (i.e. the grade for the group). More details will be provided in class.  

Class participation and written assignments are linked to all of the course objectives. The final group exercise is linked to the final course objective: to design a priority setting process for a health organization.


90 units, two 200-level HSCI courses; or permission of the instructor



Donaldson C. Credit Crunch Health Care. Policy Press, London, 2011.

Throughout the course, links to online peer-reviewed articles will be provided through Canvas.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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