This summer, Brandeis University launched their new “Justice Brandeis Semester” (JBS), an experiential-learning based program led by Brandeis professors in a variety of different fields. Students take a mixture of classes and participate in hands-on work in the local community. So, while our campus is usually a bit quiet over the summer, we’ve been fortunate to have some groups of students roaming about, exploring local civic work — courts, the environment, community organizations, government halls, etc.
I sat in on one of these courses, an open-to-the-public class on “Global Perspectives on Health” taught by Prof. Sarita Bhalotra (Heller School). This course is part of the JBS program “Health and Society.” On this particular day, June 22, Prof. Bhalotra and Prof. Peter Conrad (Heller) were welcoming a guest lecturer, Prof. Jonathan Tritter of Warwick Business School’s Institute for Governance and Public Management in the UK. Prof. Tritter is an Oxford-trained sociologist by training, and an expert in the socio-political aspects of health care policy.
Given our recent experience with health care reform in the U.S., this class was a fascinating cross-country comparison of different kinds of national health systems. Prof. Tritter neatly divided health systems into three types: Social Health Insurance, National Health Insurance, and the U.S.-style “free market” approach. He examined the comparative thinking and process behind each system, eying the relationship between state, public and private interests. The class also examined two cases studies — one from Israel and one from the United Kingdom.
This was a refreshing analysis, given that most of the U.S. knowledge for comparative health care comes from Michael Moore’s “Sicko,” which, although entertaining, tended to portray other countries’ health systems in a rosy glow. Prof. Tritter painted a more nuanced picture, examining how the quality of a health care system (and, perhaps, its efficiency) is intimately tied to cultural and societal norms. He also explained how this makes researching health care difficult — not only is comparable data hard to come by, but even the terms are often perceptual based on the particular country/culture’s history, its view of social equality, and its view of the state-public relationship.
Another lesson from this class: follow the money. “Think about where the funding comes from,” said Prof. Tritter, and where it goes, and that will give you a lot of insight into the inner works of health care — both the social and free market varieties.
Assistant Director, Office of Global Affairs