McMaster University

McMaster University


The Health Policy PhD program integrates intellectual resources for education, research, and policy service across McMaster University. The educational experience features:

  • Quality supervision and mentorship by internationally distinguished faculty members, with active programs in health policy research and engagement with policy making and evaluation;
  • Diverse, interdisciplinary students who share a common focus on health policy, with plenty of opportunities for interaction, mutual learning, and network building; and,
  • A special intellectual home in the Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis (CHEPA), also located on the 2nd Floor of the Communication Research Lab Building, provides seminars, workshops, student funding support, and many other resources for collaboration and learning.

Requirements for the completion of the degree include:

  • Advanced coursework in the theoretical frameworks and empirical methods in three interdisciplinary areas: Social Organization, Political Studies, and Health Economics;
  • Comprehensive examination to ensure mastery of key concepts, content, and methods in health policy after coursework is completed; and,
  • A dissertation that constitutes a new contribution to knowledge, based on the student’s original research. Students have an opportunity to draw on faculty supervisors’ funded research projects as well as special data resources at McMaster University.
  • Students and prospective applicants should consult the Graduate Calendar for a complete description of regulations concerning the PhD degree, degree requirements, and graduate studies at McMaster University.


Coursework is normally completed during the first and second years of full-time study. Between 4-10 half courses are required. Courses are chosen from the list of recommended courses for each curriculum area.

Required courses include:

  • 2 terms (half-courses) of the Doctoral Seminar in Health Policy;
  • 2-3 specialty field courses in a single field (health economics, political studies, or social organization);
  • 0-2 breadth field courses outside the student’s specialty field, one in each of the two fields other than the chosen specialty; and,
  • 0-3 methodology courses, including both quantitative and qualitative or mixed methods.

Students without prior graduate training in a given area are required to take the maximum number of required courses for that area. Students who have completed relevant graduate courses prior to admission may have selected course requirements waived at the time of admission to the Health Policy PhD program. A minimum of 4 half-courses (2 doctoral seminar courses, 2 specialty field courses) may not be waived and must be taken while the student is enrolled in the Health Policy PhD program.

Doctoral Seminar: 2 terms required

  • * HLTHPOL 711 / Doctoral Seminar in Health Policy

Breadth Fields: 0-2 half courses required

Health Economics Breadth Courses

  • * HRM 787 / Principles of Health Economics
  • * ECON/HRM 788 / Health Economics (required for those in the Health Economics stream)
  • * MPH 706 Intro to Health and Public Health Economics

Social Organization Breadth Courses

  • * HLTH AGE 703 / Systems, Services and Policy
  • * HRM 748 Population & Public Health

Political Studies Breadth Courses

  • * HRM/HLTHPOL 738 / Health Policy Analysis

Specialty Fields: 2-3 half courses in 1 of the following 3 fields required

Health Economics

  • * ECON/HRM 788 / Health Economics (required for Health Economics specialty field, unless waived)
  • * ECON 727 / Microeconomic Theory for Public Policy (required for Health Economics specialty field, unless waived)
  • * ECON/HRM 791 / Topics in Advanced Health Economics
  • * ECON 793 / Health Economic Policy
  • * HRM 737 / Economic Analysis for the Evaluation of Health Services
  • * HLTHPOL 750 / Special Topics in Health Policy
  • * HLTHPOL 798 / Independent Study in Health Policy

Political Studies

  • * HRM 738 / Health Policy Analysis (required for Political Studies field, unless waived)
  • * POLSCI 783 / Comparative Public Policy
  • * POLSCI 785 / Public Sector Management
  • * POLSCI 706 / Comparative Politics of Health Policy
  • * POLSCI 740 / Theories of Comparative Politics
  • * POLSCI/GLOBALST 777 / Global Governance
  • * HLTHPOL 750 / Special Topics in Health Policy
  • * HLTHPOL 798 / Independent Study in Health Policy

Social Organization

  • * HTH AGE 703 / Systems, Services and Policy (required for Social Organization field, unless waived)
  • * HLTH AGE 708 / Health & Aging in a Global and International Context
  • * HLTH AGE 709 / Socio-Cultural Aspects of Health and Aging
  • * SOCIOL 718 / Sociology of Work and Occupations
  • * SOCIOL 714 / Political Sociology
  • * POLSCI 786 / Organizational Theory and the Public Sector
  • * ANTHRO 712 / Being and Belonging: The Family in Global Perspective
  • * ANTHRO 717 / Readings in the Anthropology of Health
  • * GLOBAL 701 / Topics In Globalization Studies: Global Social Policy
  • * GLOBAL/ANTHRO 720 / Topics in Political Culture
  • * HIST 748 / Research in Canadian History
  • * HLTHPOL 750 / Special Topics in Health Policy
  • * HLTHPOL 798 / Independent Study in Health Policy

Research Methods: 0-3 half courses required

Quantitative Methods

  • * ECON 761 / Econometrics I (required for Health Economics specialty field, unless waived)
  • * ECON 762 / Econometrics II
  • * ECON 769 / Applied Microeconometrics
  • * ECON 770 / Advanced Analysis of Survey Data
  • * ECON 795 / Analysis of Health Data
  • * HRM 723 / Regression Analysis
  • * HRM 727 / Theory and Practice of Measurement
  • * HRM 731 / Advanced Linear Models for Health Data
  • * HRM 737 / Economic Analysis for the Evaluation of Health Services
  • * HRM 740 / Advanced Decision Analysis in Health Technology Assessment
  • * HRM 751 / Observational and Analytical Research Methods
  • * HRM 762 / Evaluation of Health Care and Health Care Programs
  • * POLSCI 784 / Statistical Analysis for Public Policy
  • * SOCIOL 740 / Statistical Methods for Social Research
  • * SOCIOL 761 / Topics in Statistical Methods for Social Research

Qualitative Methods

  • * HLTHPOL 747 / Qualitative and Conceptual Methods for Health Policy
  • * HRM 745 / Qualitative Research Methods
  • * HRM 758 / Qualitative Analytic Methods
  • * SOCIOL 742 / Qualitative Methods
  • * SOCIOL 743 / Historical Methods
  • * SOCIOL 744 / Computer Applications in Qualitative Data Analysis
  • * HRM 705 / Independent Study in Health Research Methodology

Other Methods

  • * HRM 726 / The Science and Practice of Knowledge Translation: Foundations
  • * NURSING 770 / Mixed Methods Research Design for Health Services and Policy Research
  • * POLSCI 796 / Research Design and Methods
  • * HRM 705 / Independent Study in Health Research Methodology
  • * HLTHPOL 750 / Special Topics in Health Policy
  • * HLTHPOL 798 / Independent Study in Health Policy


Each student will be assigned a faculty supervisor upon admission to the program, with a three member supervisory committee to be appointed within 6 months of the student's enrollment in the program. At least two (of three) supervisory committee members must be core faculty members of the Health Policy PhD Program. The primary faculty supervisor and the supervisory committee members provide guidance and monitor the student's progress. The supervisory committee is expected to meet with the student at least twice, annually to assess the student's progress, and to file a written progress report with the Program to ensure timely advancement is being made.

Specialty Fields

Health Economics: The economics field addresses the economic analysis of health policies and health systems, as well as the economic analysis of responses to health policies. Topics may include, for example, health resource allocation, configuration of health human resources, economic evaluation of policy options, public and private financing of health care, societal investments in health production, etc. The dominant disciplinary perspective is that of microeconomics, but insight into economic behaviour may also be provided by perspectives such as business, psychology, and others.

Political Studies: The political studies field emphasizes the political aspects of health policy including the influences by political institutions, actors, values, and ideas operating within state and global jurisdictions. Topics of interest, for example, may include the role of historical institutional arrangements in shaping health governance reforms, the impact of global trade agreements on domestic home care and pharmaceutical policy, the role of the public, stakeholders, and prevailing values on policy agendas, etc. Political science is the dominant disciplinary perspective, with related areas including, for example, public policy analysis and administration, comparative public policy, law, political theory and philosophy.

Social Organization: The social organization field emphasizes the analysis of the social influences that shape the production of health (and illness), the organization of health services and systems, and their associated policies.Topics of interest for example include the generation and use of information to inform policy, political economies of health and its production, policies to address the social determinants of health and professional roles and behaviour, etc. Relevant disciplinary perspectives include anthropology, business administration or management, health systems, history, philosophy, political science, psychology and sociology.

Comprehensive Examination

Comprehensive examinations are completed during the first and second years of full time study, as the relevant coursework requirements are completed. Students complete three required comprehensive examinations in the following areas, typically in the following sequence:

  • Breadth knowledge in all three content areas. This includes two breadth fields outside the student’s specialty area (social organization, political studies, and health economics), in addition to breadth knowledge in their chosen specialty field to expose them to the content and structure.
  • Research methods (qualitative and quantitative empirical approaches); and finally,
  • One chosen specialty area (social organization, political studies, or health economics) examining the mastery of their preferred field, while demonstrating a refined and sophisticated level of conceptual/theoretical understanding.


All Health Policy PhD students are required to research, write, and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation, which constitutes an original contribution to knowledge in the field of health policy. The dissertation is developed and completed under the guidance of the student’s primary supervisor and a dissertation supervision committee consisting of at least two additional faculty members.

By the beginning of the third year of full time study, the doctoral dissertation proposal is formally presented and defended before a committee. Doctoral dissertation research is normally completed during the third and fourth years of full time study, with the completion, approval, and defense of the dissertation by the end of the fourth year (Thesis Forms).

A guideline developed by the Editors' Association of Canada regarding the role of the editor in thesis editing can be accessed here for your convenience: EAC Guide

Important: The information on this website is frequently updated and may change at any time. Please consult the McMaster Graduate Calendar for policies during the current academic year. Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the Health Policy PhD Program directly for specific up-to-date information.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Level Double-A conformance, W3C WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0