Master of Health Studies (MHST) 601

Philosophical Foundations of Health Systems


Delivery Mode: Paced/home-study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Applied Studies

Prerequisite: For MHS Students: No Pre req
For MN-Gen Students: NURS 608

Centre: Centre for Nursing and Health Studies


MHST/NURS 601 offers advanced preparation for health professionals relating to the history, practice and future of the Canadian health care system. The focus of this course is on knowledge and analysis of the underpinnings of system and application of this knowledge to the student health field. Course topics include:

  • an overview of political philosophy,
  • a review of the history of the Canadian healthcare system with an emphasis on philosophical influence,
  • an examination of the issues generated by the philosophical foundation of today's health care system both federally and provincially,
  • a comparison of the Canadian health care system with selected other countries,
  • a projection of trends to anticipate possible futures of the Canadian health care system, and,

There are opportunities in this course for students to focus on the implications of the system on their own health discipline. There are choices and learning activities and students are expected to select activities that address their own learning needs. Students are expected to participate in forum discussions and to share their learning.

This is often the first course taken in the program and is designed to introduce the use of online learning technologies. Hopefully you will learn to read on-screen. Attempting to print the entire course syllabus, content from websites and all the readings may not be useful.

The Underpinnings of this Course

There are some things you should know about MHST/NURS 601 before you begin. It may be different than other courses you have taken. The course is founded on the following guiding principles:

  • The focus of MHST/NURS 601 is on individualized learning. Students are the "chief agents" in the process and are best suited to determine what topics related to their own health disciplines are most important for them to focus on and what learning activities can best assist them with their learning.
  • There is a large degree of self-directedness and choice in this course design but we are working within some limits (e.g., time, resources). While some resources are provided-for example, readings, an outline of course topics and unit objectives, conferencing space and an instructor, students will locate supplemental reading materials that relate to their own learning. It is anticipated that students will independently locate reading content from the readings and websites to the topic being studied.
  • The topic of the course is very broad. Within this larger topic there are many sub-topics relating to specific issues or professions. A sound philosophical foundation of the health care system provides a conceptual underpinning for understanding these topics and is an important groundwork element of this course.
  • Graduate students should be achieving learning objectives from the cognitive domain at the analysis and synthesis level. The assignments produced in this course should reflect this as students seek to compare, contrast, deconstruct, reconstruct, and create new meaning or structure.

Course Overview

  • Unit 1 (Week 1)—An Overview of Political Philosophy
  • Unit 2 (Weeks 2, 3, & 4)—This History of our Health Care System
  • Unit 3 (Weeks 5, 6, & 7)—The Federal System Today
  • Unit 4 (Week 8)—Provincial Systems
  • Unit 5 (Weeks 9 & 10)—Other Health Care Systems
  • Unit 6 (Weeks 11 & 12)—The Future of our Health Care System
  • Unit 7 (Week 13)—Integrating personal Learning and Wrap Up

Course Goals

By the conclusion of MHST/NURS 601: Philosophical Foundations of Health Systems, students will be able to:

  • Critically discuss the influence of politics and philosophy on health care system decisions,
  • Describe the influence of stakeholders on policy decisions,
  • Critically examine current issues within the Canadian health care system,
  • Compare and contrast various ways of organizing and funding health care systems,
  • Outline the role of practitioners in relation to the health care system, and
  • Explore possible futures for the Canadian health care system.

Course Materials

The course materials for MHST 601 include the following items. Please note that a list of supplementary materials appears in the online Study Guide.

  • Study Guide (online)
  • Reading File (online)


There is no textbook for this course. Readings will be online.

Course Structure

MHST 601 is an asynchronous online course. This means there is no predetermined time when you must log on; you are required to log on at least once a week. However, at a specified time each week, I will make an online presentation that relates to the topic of the week and the issues of the day. This presentation will include a list of discussion questions and will set the tone for the online discussion. The purpose of the weekly input is to keep everyone focused on the same topic. Once the online presentation is posted, you may add to the discussion at any time. Logging on several times a week is desirable so that discussion continues back and forth among participants.

Special Course Features

In this course, you will access health-related websites worldwide. You will also participate in email and computer conferencing with other students. Students are expected to connect to an Internet Service Provider at their own expense.

Technical Requirements

Computer System

In order to successfully complete this course, you must own or have ready access to certain computer hardware and software programs. For complete and up-to-date information on the minimum computer requirements required to complete the graduate nursing courses, visit the Centre for Nursing and Health Studies technical site.

Assessment Structure

In the MHS and MN:Gen programs, students must achieve an overall program GPA of 2.7 ( B- or 70 per cent), to graduate. The minimum passing grade requirement for each MHS and MN:Gen course is C- (60 percent).

The following course activities will contribute to your course grade, with the percentage weighting of each activity as follows:

Participation 20%
Assignment 1 - Political Action Assessment 10%
Assignment 2 - How to Get Involved 35%
Assignment 3 - Recommendation for the Future 35%

Participation (20%)

The assessment structure for MHST/NURS 601 indicates that 10% of your final grade will be determined by your participation in the course. Participation is inclusive of weekly and special conference forums. It is expected that you make a minimum of two substantive contributions to the conference forums each week. Minimum participation receives a minimum pass of 12/20.

Assignment 1: Political Action Assessment (10%)

Consider this a short paper (2-3 pages). Select ONE political action from the Making of Medicare readings.

  • Describe the political action in context
  • Propose the political philosophy underpinning the action
  • Describe the outcome or desired outcome of the action

You may benefit from searching "5 paragraph essay" or "5 paragraph paper". Assignment will be graded on creativity, logical presentation, accuracy of information and appropriate style and grammar (APA 6) No abstract required.

Assignment 2: How to Get Involved (35%)

Consider this a medium length paper (7-10 pages).

Support your ideas with appropriate references. Assignment will be graded on creativity and overall impact of your writing, logical presentation and organization, clarity and accuracy of information and appropriate style and grammar (APA 6)

Assignment 3: Recommendations for the Future (35%)

Consider this a medium length paper (7-10 pages).

A. Chose one substantive recommendation, or cluster of related recommendations from either the Romanow Report or the Senate Standing Committee Report (chaired by Kirby) and situate them it/them the present.

  • Describe the context at the time they were proposed
  • Determine any actions taken relating to them in the ensuing years
  • Explain the support and/or opposition faced
  • Describe the current status and
  • Propose future direction


B. Choose to compare and contrast the recommendations of the two reports as they pertain to the same content/policy area.

  • Describe the context at the time they were proposed
  • Describe similarities or differences in the two reports
  • Determine any actions taken relating to them in the ensuing years
  • Explain the support and/or opposition faced
  • Describe the current status and
  • Propose future direction

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

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Updated January 4, 2011.

Updated November 09 2017 by Student & Academic Services