Introduction to the Health Systems Course
Monday, July 4, 2011 at 4:09PM
Future Health Systems

This is a 10 unit short course developed by David Bishai of Johns Hopkins University and the Health Systems Board under the sponsorship of Future Health Systems.


Health systems (plural) are the overlapping institutions that determine how a population organizes preventive and curative activities to guard health and cure disease.  Health systems are to the maintenance of population health similar to what organ systems are to the health of the human body.  There are multiple systems and breakdown of one affects the breakdown of others.   Health systems deploy health workers, drugs, facilities, financing, and governance.   Like organ systems, health systems break down in predictable patterns and lead to syndromes that can be diagnosed and addressed.

Dysfunctional health systems are why thousands of effective low-cost health interventions remain on the shelves while people suffer and die.  Dysfunctional health systems leave people vulnerable to financial catastrophe.  Failure to manage health resources judiciously permits not just waste, but the delivery of inappropriate or harmful services.  While many lament how little research addresses the development of “new cures” for the diseases of the poor, the inexcusable tragedy is the world’s failure to deliver affordable and effective “old cures” to treatable and preventable diseases.  Diarrhea, pneumonia, TB, malaria, are all easily and cheaply treatable. Their persistence around the world is a testament to failed health systems more so than a lack of scientific prowess.


  1. The Building Blocks of Health Systems
  2. Agents, Units, Institutions
  3. Service Delivery
  4. Health Workforce
  5. Quality and Governance
  6. Financing 1 - Introduction to health insurance
  7. Financing 2 - Social and private insurance
  8. Supply chain
  9. Information Systems
  10. The Role of Households in Health Systems
  11. Further reading



 To familiarize students with the syndromic study of  health systems



 Upon completing this course students will be able to:


Article originally appeared on Future Health Systems (
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