Case Studies

Teaching with case studies: a guide


Some educators are not comfortable with case study teaching, while others remain unaware of cases' value in achieving important educational objectives. Even educators who buy into their value and are already using them can benefit from reflection in order to improve their practice.

We have therefore developed an accessible and easy-to-navigate guidance document that provides principles, strategies and tips that will help educators to: 

  • Prepare students for engaging with case study teaching by limiting resistance to the teaching method if necessary; facilitating their understanding of the material, for example by providing guiding questions for reading; and laying the groundwork for key behaviours such as respectful learning;
  • Understand their role in case study teaching; to initiate, develop and end case study discussions; and to be aware of key behaviours such as leading discussions in a way that does not close them off, stamp too much of the educator’s authority on them or devalue the learning of students; and
  • Write case studies that meet their teaching objectives, are authentic, and grab the interest of students.


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Routine governance in Mitchells Plain sub-district in South Africa

MP case


Drawing on the experience of the Mitchells Plain sub-district in Cape Town, South Africa, this case study provides a window onto the routine functioning of a local-level health system and the ways in which middle managers and frontline staff have sought to cope with their challenges and do things differently to improve the health system’s functioning.

This case study highlights:

  • The structural complexity of health systems, as well as the complex, multi-directional relationships that are required for the system to work;
  • The different ways in which a health system can be governed;
  • The full range of skills required of mid-level managers and health facility managers;
  • The values, mind-sets and relationships of different health system actors; and
  • Ways in which managers can strengthen the health system, especially through strategies that are sensitive to power, communication, relationships and values.

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Health system decentralisation in Kenya

Kenya case


This case study focuses on the early stages (2013-2015) of the decentralisation of government functions that occurred after the adoption of Kenya’s 2010 constitution, in particular how these changes affected the local-level health system and service delivery to communities.

The case study is useful for stimulating students’ thinking about:

  • The influence of the broader political system on the health system;
  • The role of time and timing in health system change;
  • The (changing) relationships between actors and the software and hardware of the organisational contexts within which reforms come to life;
  • The sometimes counter-intuitive impacts of reforms; and
  • The impact that changes in one aspect of the broader government or health system can have on other aspects of that same system.

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The marketing of alcoholic drinks in South Africa

alcohol case


Covering the period March 2011 to May 2017, this case study explores the process through which the 2013 draft Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill was formulated.

This case study’s focus on policy formulation makes it quite distinctive, as it is more common for policy change case studies to cover implementation. The case study can be used to support students to analyse the typical steps in policy formulation, as well as the context of policy change and the support or opposition of different actors; the nature of policy content and how it relates to the interests, values and understandings of actors; and strategies that policy proponents and opponents use to influence the outcome of the policy process.

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In brief: Street-level bureaucracy theory

One of the most enduring questions in health policy analysis is why policies are often implemented in unintended ways; why implementation “on the ground” looks different to the intentions of top-level policy makers or the objectives of official policy documents.

Part of the answer lies in the working environments and mind-sets of street-level bureaucrats: front-line workers or policy implementers such as nurses, teachers and police officers.

This guidance note, courtesy of the Health Policy and Systems Division of the University of Cape Town, summarises the theory of street-level bureaucracy. It is intended to be used as a teaching resource, with the aim of introducing students to street-level bureaucracy theory and stimulating them to read further. It can work well with CHEPSAA’s module Health Policy Analysis or any other discussion of the behaviour of front-line health policy implementers.

This summary was developed in the context of work that synthesised the literature on street-level bureaucracy, as well as other aspects of the health policy analysis literature in low- and middle-income countries. This open access work can be accessed here.

Download the summary of street-level bureaucracy theory

Community Health Funds

This case study encourages students to interrogate the strengths and weaknesses of the voluntary community health fund (CHF) model. Based on the results of a health systems analysis of the performance of the CHF, students are asked to use systems thinking to test how accurately they can anticipate the problems experienced in implementation and then to propose modifications to the CHF model that might mitigate shortcomings or take advantage of synergies elsewhere in the system.

This case study address issues around health care access, quality and equity; the facilitation of stakeholder involvement; politics and power; as well as accountability and trust.

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Lay Boards

This case study tells the real-life stories of two health facility governing committees in the same district. In Village A, the committee is highly accomplished and well-functioning. In Village B, the committee lacks drive and effectiveness.

By juxtaposing the well-functioning and poorly functioning committees, this case study raises questions about the value and limitations of including the voice of the population in the governance of health systems and the value of effective stakeholder processes. It helps students to understand the behaviours associated wit the success or failure of the committees and seeks to support students’ thinking about how to develop more effective community participation.

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The Patients’ Rights Charter in South Africa

This case study reflects on the implementation of the Patients’ Rights Charter in South Africa, a policy that had symbolic and political significance because it signalled a move away from the inequitable and inadequate health services that were provided to the majority of the population before the country’s transition to democracy in 1994. The Patients’ Rights Charter gave patients certain rights, but also stipulated that they had certain responsibilities in how they accessed health care and engaged with the health system.

Various aspects of this experience are highlighted in this case study, including how the Patients’ Rights Charter was introduced into the health system, the outcomes that were achieved, how the policy change was perceived and managed by health system managers and health workers, and how the policy’s structure of rights vs. responsibilities provided a resource for some frontline actors who resisted its implementation.

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Health Facility Committees and Financial Management Structures in Kenya

This case study is set in the Kenyan context and examines two policies. First, direct facility funding, through which facilities receive funding directly into their bank accounts, in part to address the problem of funding from higher levels in the health system that does not flow through to facilities. Second, health facility committees, which is about broadening community participation in public health service delivery. Health facility committees are also involved in managing the funds received through direct facility funding.

In exploring the implementation of these policies, this case study covers the relationships between health workers and health facility committees and the relationships between the wider community and the health facility committees.

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Additional Duty Hours Allowance in Ghana

This case study focuses on the introduction, in the late 1990s, of an additional duty hours allowance for doctors and dentists in Ghana’s public health sector. This issue came to the fore because of wage increases that were paid to doctors employed by the Ministry of Defence, which then ignited the long-simmering discontent among other doctors in the rest of the public sector over their low salaries and long working hours. The initial agreement to pay the additional duty hours allowance to doctors and dentists eventually had much wider repercussions through the health system, which are also explored in this case study.

This case study is well-suited the exploring the mind-sets, interests and power of key policy stakeholders and for illustrating the concept of unintended policy consequences.

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Promoting equitable access to health care for households:Case Studies

The case studies present participants with an equity ‘lens’ through which to view the challenges of promoting health system access, focussing attention on households’ experience of illness and health service access with facilitator notes (University of Cape Town).

Get the case studies and facilitator notes

Critical Health System Analyses to Support Reform:Case Studies

The case studies aim to strengthen critical analysis skills that can support health system reform. Each case study is complemented by facilitator notes and covers: planning, budgeting, resource allocation; health sector reform; decentralization; health care financing and policy analysis (University of Cape Town and University of the Witwatersrand).

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