Health policy--why research it and how: health political science

Health Res Policy Syst. 2014 Sep 23;12:55. doi: 10.1186/1478-4505-12-55.


The establishment of policy is key to the implementation of actions for health. We review the nature of policy and the definition and directions of health policy. In doing so, we explicitly cast a health political science gaze on setting parameters for researching policy change for health. A brief overview of core theories of the policy process for health promotion is presented, and illustrated with empirical evidence. The key arguments are that (a) policy is not an intervention, but drives intervention development and implementation; (b) understanding policy processes and their pertinent theories is pivotal for the potential to influence policy change; (c) those theories and associated empirical work need to recognise the wicked, multi-level, and incremental nature of elements in the process; and, therefore, (d) the public health, health promotion, and education research toolbox should more explicitly embrace health political science insights. The rigorous application of insights from and theories of the policy process will enhance our understanding of not just how, but also why health policy is structured and implemented the way it is.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Policy Making*
  • Politics
  • Public Health*
  • Research*