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Health Systems Strengthening

The greatest challenges and advances in global health demand systems strengthening interventions.

33,195 enrolled on this course

This abstract image depicts a typical health system. Nodes with health system elements (people, medication, finance, medical equipment and buildings) are connected by intersecting lines aiming to show the complexity of the health system.
  • Duration

    8 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • Digital upgrade


Learn how to build better health systems.

In this course, you’ll explore the complexity of health systems and apply systems thinking to health systems strengthening (HSS). You’ll critique major health system frameworks, analyse health system inequities, and interrogate the evidence for HSS approaches. You’ll be equipped with the knowledge and skills to develop HSS interventions across areas such as health policy, health financing, human resources, supply chain management, quality of care and private sector engagement. This course was developed by the Nossal Institute and UNICEF to equip UNICEF staff to work in HSS; now it’s open to you.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds IBRAHIM MOHAMMED: Health system strengthening is complex.

Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds ENKHNASAN NASAN-ULZII: Health is influenced by many interrelated factors.

Skip to 0 minutes and 16 seconds ANDRY FIDELE RAVALITERA: It is not a linear thinking.

Skip to 0 minutes and 18 seconds AMAL TUCKER BROWN: You really need to know a little bit about all the different moving parts.

Skip to 0 minutes and 21 seconds JOYCE MPHAYA: Different skills, different technical expertise.

Skip to 0 minutes and 24 seconds SAJA ABDULLAH: A lot of coordination among actors, partners.

Skip to 0 minutes and 27 seconds AMAL TUCKER BROWN: And the different levels that it has to work at– at the national, at the subnational, what’s the policies, what’s the global policy.

Skip to 0 minutes and 33 seconds IBRAHIM MOHAMMED: Sometimes, you don’t get the results you expect.

Skip to 0 minutes and 36 seconds ENKHNASAN NASAN-ULZII: Health system strengthening is complex.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds BARBARA MCPAKE: We can strengthen health systems. Ethiopia brought in health extension workers, and saw maternal and child mortality drop dramatically. Cambodia rolled out health equity funds to the whole population, and saw substantial reductions in impoverishing health expenditures. Mexico expanded health insurance coverage to the most marginalised, and access to services greatly increased. With the risks to global health security of weak health systems and the growing pressures of demographic and epidemiological transitions, we have to get this right.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds CLAUDIA VIVAS TORREALBA: UNICEF works to strengthen health systems in 190 countries and territories. We have seen firsthand how important it is that global health professionals have the skills and confidence to intervene across the whole health system to achieve equitable results for children, mothers, and their communities.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 seconds BARBARA MCPAKE: At the Nossal Institute, we research health systems development, and advise and support learning in countries and organisations around the world. Together, we conceived this course to address what we see as a real need among global health professionals today to be able to see health systems in all their complexity, analyse them, and take decisive action.

Skip to 1 minute and 58 seconds CLAUDIA VIVAS TORREALBA: So far, over 200 UNICEF staff have participated in this course, and use it as they partner with countries to support health systems development. Now, we are opening it to you.

Skip to 2 minutes and 9 seconds BARBARA MCPAKE: Over the next eight weeks, you’ll be introduced to key concepts and skills in health system strengthening.

Skip to 2 minutes and 15 seconds CLAUDIA VIVAS TORREALBA: We’ll provide you with the skills and knowledge required to apply the foundations of health system strengthening in your current role, or to move beyond your role to take a broader approach to improving your health system.

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 seconds BARBARA MCPAKE: We aim to make you confident to start addressing the complex health system problems you face.

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 seconds AMAL TUCKER BROWN: I would strongly recommend this course for anybody who’s interested in system strengthening.

Skip to 2 minutes and 37 seconds JOYCE MPHAYA: It’s a course that will actually help you think holistically, help you to understand the health systems within the particular contexts.

Skip to 2 minutes and 44 seconds SAJA ABDULLAH: The course is very user-friendly.

Skip to 2 minutes and 47 seconds AMAL TUCKER BROWN: The examples provided are very practical. They’re very relevant. They’re evidence-based.

Skip to 2 minutes and 52 seconds CLAUDIA VIVAS TORREALBA: Welcome to the course.

Skip to 2 minutes and 54 seconds BARBARA MCPAKE: We’re glad you’ve decided to join us for this rewarding journey.

What topics will you cover?

  • Health system structures, functions and components, and how they interact.
  • How to use evidence, and analysis of inequity, to drive interventions to strengthen health systems.
  • Strengthening health systems through action in areas such as health policy, financing, human resources, supply chain management, quality of care and private sector engagement.
  • Using complex systems thinking to address health system problems.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

Add to Wishlist to be emailed when new dates are announced

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Develop knowledge and skills in health systems strengthening (HSS), to improve outcomes for disadvantaged women and children.
  • Apply complex systems thinking in the design and implementation of HSS interventions.
  • Evaluate HSS interventions for their evidence base, sustainability and capacity to support universal health coverage.

Who is the course for?

This course would suit middle and high-level health professionals, including health administrators and policy makers, doctors, nurses and others who work to shape health systems. The course focuses primarily on low and middle income country contexts.

Who will you learn with?

Dr Matt Reeve is a medical doctor working in global health.

Professor Barbara McPake is a health economist and health systems analyst.

Prarthna Dayal is a Senior Technical Advisor.

Who developed the course?

The University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne is a public research university located in Melbourne, Australia. We are Australia’s number one university and world leader in education, teaching and research excellence.

  • Established

  • Location

    Melbourne, Australia
  • World ranking

    Top 40Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022

The Nossal Institute for Global Health

The University of Melbourne’s Nossal Institute for Global Health is a leader in health systems research and teaching.


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child in 190 countries and territories, with a special focus on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children.

Endorsers and supporters

funded by


What's included?

UNICEF are offering everyone who joins this course a free digital upgrade, so that you can experience the full benefits of studying online for free. This means that you get:

  • Unlimited access to this course
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • Tests to validate your learning
  • A PDF Certificate of Achievement to prove your success when you’re eligible
  • Learning on FutureLearn

    Your learning, your rules

    • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
    • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
    • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

    Join a global classroom

    • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
    • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
    • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

    Map your progress

    • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
    • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
    • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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