Here Are The Benefits of Taking CAPA's Comparative Healthcare Systems Course

Aug 24, 2020 9:45:00 AM / by Antonia Bignotti

Have you ever wondered how healthcare works in different countries? Antonia signed up for this course with hopes to work in this field someday and was able to learn the building blocks of a healthcare system and how to analyze systems across the globe critically. In this post, she gives us an overview of what you can expect in this course from lectures to guest speakers who share valuable insights from cultural perspectives and more.

Apart from remote internships, CAPA also offers study abroad academic courses. All of CAPA's global cities offer a variety of classes in different subjects like law, film, health, business, etc. These classes can be transferred as credits to your university or be added as coursework to your professional profile. All classes are taught by professors from around the world, therefore you also explore and compare the subject of the class with a new cultural perspective.

This summer, alongside my internship, I signed up for the Comparative Health Systems course based in London. The class is meant to introduce you to the UK healthcare system while also comparing it to other systems around the world. Additionally, you explore concepts of comparative health, and how to critically compare one system to another. If you are interested in health and have ever wondered how healthcare works in different countries, this is the course for you.

Thank you NHS rainbow picThe National Health Services (NHS) is the public healthcare system available to everyone who lives in the UK. This is one of the signs posted to thank the NHS for all their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why Take This Course?

"For me, the main reason I have taught this course over the last few years is my passion about healthcare and about ensuring that everyone (patients and professionals) is empowered with the knowledge and understanding of their own healthcare systems to make the right choices and advocate for change."
—Professor Ceri Butler

To be honest, I did not know much about healthcare before I took this course. As a student who aspires to one day work in the health field, I always felt like I needed to be more informed about healthcare. Yes, I know what it is like to attend a doctor’s appointment, but healthcare is so much larger than the interaction between you and a health professional. Behind that simple interaction there are policies and laws that allow me to access that care. Additionally, there are determinants in my own life like where I live, my socioeconomic status and my education that can affect my relationship with this system.

It can be confusing to research about healthcare as it is often politicized. It is important to learn about the health system in a political context, but I found it easier to start by looking at the basics. What is a healthcare system? How can I discern if it is “good” or “bad”? What is efficiency? What is quality? These are all questions that will be answered during this class. Now that I know more about the construction blocks of healthcare systems in general, I feel confident to talk to others about this and participate in discussions with a critical mindset.

What Did I Learn?

“One thing I really enjoyed from this class was getting a real world perspective from multicultural backgrounds on their healthcare systems. I learned about health societies from a general standpoint as well as how other health systems are handling the current pandemic.”  —Arleigh Wood, CAPA student

While growing up in Chile, I remember always hearing negative comments about the healthcare system. People waiting for doctor’s consults for months, or worse, even dying while on the waitlist. It wasn't until I took this course that I began to ask myself, why does this happen? Is it because the country needs more doctors? More financial resources?

From this course I was able to critically look at the healthcare system in Chile and understand what is wrong, what needs to be fixed, and some good aspects too. I never would have found the positive aspects of the system if it weren't for comparison. Understanding more about what the health standards and general expectations are in other countries helps to better understand the local situation. This is not to minimize or to discount the problems in the Chilean system, but it helps to learn more about the global situation and question what you usually hear about your own system.

What Can You Expect?

Disclaimer: I took this course during the Summer of 2020 remotely. There may be changes to this course in the future.


During most lectures Professor Butler will present new concepts and tie them to examples of the UK and other countries. During these types of lectures most of my time was spent taking notes and asking questions. Anyone can ask questions at any time and Professor Butler also asks questions about our experiences with healthcare. All students are from different backgrounds, therefore it is always interesting to hear about other students' perspectives. The rest of the lectures are spent on student presentations and guest speakers. These lectures tend to be more conversational, as there are more instances for questions and discussion.


Throughout the class students will pick a healthcare system (or more than one) to base their assignments on. There will be presentations and a final paper where students present different aspects of the healthcare system. This allows for comparisons between countries being presented. Assignments are usually due every two weeks.

Guest Speakers and Site Visits

Guest speakers are health professionals who present their experiences working for their own (or other) healthcare systems. This is a great opportunity to connect with professionals from around the world and hear about their experiences as clinicians and members of their system.

I enjoyed guest speaker presentations because they allow you to contextualize what you learn in class. During these presentations you are hearing about someone's single experience as part of a huge coordinated system. Additionally, it is always great to hear from real life professionals. While researching future professionals it can be hard to find personable information. These guest speakers provided information that you would not find on a google search.

Guest speaker Mary, radiographer from LondonThis is Maria Nicholson, one of the guest speakers. She is a radiographer at a Kings College Hospital in London. She spoke to us about her experiences as a radiographer and what it was like working through the pandemic. Here she is pictured in her personal protective equipment while she worked with COVID-19 patients.

Note: I took this class remotely. For students taking this class in London, they will also have field visits to hospitals and health practitioners.

“For students, I hope they gain the ability to think much more critically about how they (as patients and future healthcare professionals) could make changes to improve patient access and overall health outcomes in the future.”  —Professor Ceri Butler

I know this sounds cheesy, but we as students are the ones who can advocate for change in the future. As a future clinician or current patient, it is very important to learn about the healthcare system I will be working for and using. I believe it is crucial for all future health professionals to think critically about care provision and what part they will play in it. In order to fully understand healthcare systems it is necessary to learn about other systems than your own and recognize resource allocation strategies. Overall, this class has helped me feel more informed and empowered when it comes to healthcare.

Another sign that the community in the UK posted in support of the NHS.Another sign that the community in the UK posted in support of the NHS.

Thanks, Antonia!

Antonia Bignotti

Antonia Bignotti is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2020, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Human Biology major from the University of Kansas, she is remotely studying abroad in London this semester.

Antonia's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

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Topics: London, England, International Education, Online Study Abroad