Why Should Health Researchers Use Policy Theories?; Comment on “Modelling the Health Policy Process: One Size Fits All or Horses for Courses?”

Document Type : Commentary


Division of History, Heritage, and Politics, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK


Powell and Mannion suggest that ‘health policy process’ research should draw more lessons from ‘the wider policy process literature.’ While health research could continue with sector specific models, the wider literature is ‘conceptually stronger.’ In that context, I clarify how and why health researchers should use policy theories. I describe a review of the use of policy theories in public health research to show that many researchers use them to not only understand policy-making but also influence policy and policy-making. Most policy theories are not designed for that purpose, but it is still possible to produce practical lessons. I outline the issues that arise when repurposing theory-informed insights, such as that policy change takes a long time, and the scale of policy-making is potentially overwhelming. I then highlight the valuable role of theories in raising dilemmas in relation to modes of governance and evidence production.


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