Objective: This article explores the role of professional values and the culture of the Australian health care system in facilitating and constraining the implementation of an Aboriginal health policy.
Methods: Thirty-five semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted in a case study on the implementation of the Northern Territory Preventable Chronic Disease Strategy (PCDS).
Results: PCDS included three major evidence-based components - primary prevention, early detection and better management. The research revealed that PCDS changed as it was implemented. The values of the medical and nursing professions favoured the implementation of the clinically-based component of PCDS - better management. But there was dissonance between the values of these dominant professional groups and the values and expertise in public health that were necessary to implement fully the primary prevention component of PCDS. While Aboriginal health workers have valuable knowledge and skills in this area, they were not accorded sufficient power and training to influence decision-making on priorities and resources, and were able to exercise only limited influence on the components of the PCDS that were implemented.
Conclusion: The findings highlight the role that a myriad of values play in influencing which aspects of a policy are implemented by organizations and their agents. Comprehensive and equitable implementation of policy requires an investigation and awareness of different professional values, and an examination of whose voices will be privileged in the decision-making process. If the advances in developing evidence-based, culturally-appropriate and inclusive policy are to be translated into practice, then care needs to be taken to monitor and influence whose values are being included at what point in the policy implementation process.