Health Policy Analysis: Concept and Principles

Article excerpt

The concept. Health policy analysis (HPA) is the application of scientific methods to the formulation of policy options and a description of the consequences or implications of each option. HPA starts by identifying the health problem and the factors related directly and indirectly to it. All of these factors are then taken into consideration in formulating policy options. HPA can be performed proactively, prospectively or retrospectively, i.e., in evaluating policies that have been implemented. Examples of the type of questions that HPA can be used to address include the following: What have been the implications of a given policy for achieving health goals and objectives? How have resources been allocated and utilized under such a policy?

For the evaluation or assessment of implications, various normative parameters or values are usually employed in HPA, as outlined below.

Characteristics of health policy analysis. Emphasis on the consequences of policy. The emphasis place by HPA on exploring policy options and their consequences distinguishes it from other forms of health research. HPA explores simultaneously all possible consequences of a given policy option, analysing the consequences in terms of accomplishment of goal and objectives of health development. HPA also examines the implications of a given policy as well as the allocation and use of resources. Beyond the health sector boundary, HPA assesses the implications of a given health policy on development in general.

Client orientation of HPA. HPA is not the practice o health politics, and is not involved in the exercise o power in health policy-making. However, a prerequisite for conducting HPA studies is clear information on how health policy is made in a specific locality or circumstance.

The various "forces" interact at the strategic nodes (the points where the results of HPA should be made available) where the "clients" make their decisions. The purpose of HPA is for every client to know what the implications and consequences of their decisions are as they choose from among available policy options. Examples of strategic nodes are the national or provincial health planning workshops; examples of clients are policy-makers in the ministry of health, ministry of finance, national planning commission, etc.

It is essential that the clients be involved at the outset/initiation of an HPA study to ensure that the results will actually be put into use.

Values and norms in HPA. …