Health Policy Analysis Requires Attending to Institutions; Comment on “Modelling the Health Policy Process: One Size Fits All or Horses for Courses?”

Document Type : Commentary


Centre for Health Equity, Training, Research & Evaluation (CHETRE), Part of the UNSW Sydney Research Centre for Primary Health Care & Equity, A Unit of Population Health, South Western Sydney Local Health District, NSW Health, Ingham Institute, Liverpool, NSW, Australia


Powell and Manion present an important review of reviews about health and policy research. They zero in on theories of the policy process as the most likely to unearth what is really going on in health policy. Here I contend that their analysis insufficiently attends to institutions. Powell and Manion situate ‘institutions’ (with ‘Ideas’ and ‘Interests’) as a ‘health policy process models’ that ‘tend to’ list factors rather than connect them. Rather, I show how there is a rich history of considering institutions in the political science literature that is under considered by Powell and Manion. By necessity for a Public Health audience I quickly pull back the covers on ‘rigour’ and ‘causation’ to demonstrate what is ‘fit for purpose’ in rigorous institution focussed policy analysis. I conclude by arguing how institutionally focussed public health policy analysis is vital for understanding and addressing heath inequities. That focus necessitates research that provides better, explicit, conceptualisations of power in health policy: especially drawing out the roles played by structure and agency. I offer some recent examples.


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