Online course in Health & Psychology

Health Systems Strengthening

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

  • Duration 8 weeks
  • Weekly study 3 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Digital upgrade Free

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 secondsIBRAHIM MOHAMMED: Health system strengthening is complex.

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

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

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

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

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

Skip to 0 minutes and 27 secondsAMAL 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 secondsIBRAHIM MOHAMMED: Sometimes, you don't get the results you expect.

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

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsBARBARA 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 secondsCLAUDIA 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 secondsBARBARA 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 secondsCLAUDIA 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 secondsBARBARA 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 secondsCLAUDIA 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 secondsBARBARA MCPAKE: We aim to make you confident to start addressing the complex health system problems you face.

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

Skip to 2 minutes and 37 secondsJOYCE 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 secondsSAJA ABDULLAH: The course is very user-friendly.

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

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

Skip to 2 minutes and 54 secondsBARBARA 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?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

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?

Matt, Barbara and Prarthna

Matt, Barbara and Prarthna

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 is a public research university located in Melbourne, Australia.

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.


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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

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: