Health Policy Research in South Asia: Case Analysis

Problem Statement

Few pieces of literature explain the relationship between law, politics, ethics, and health policy. Therefore, few researchers have investigated the role of politics and epidemiology in public health practice (Yazbeck & Peters, 2003; Baggott, 2010). Part of this problem stems from the complexity of public health policy formulation processes.

Background

Public health policies have evolved from a background of a myopic focus on proper hygiene (Baggott, 2010). However, many developed countries have eliminated historical threats to health care, such as poor hygiene. Therefore, in a constantly changing world, societies face new health threats every year. For example, throughout 2015, the world has grappled with the threat of Ebola. In past years, societies equally grappled with devastating diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Complex legal, social, economic, and ethical issues characterize modern health policies that should manage such crises (Baggott, 2010). Social diversity further compounds this complexity. For example, America’s social diversity allows different interest groups to weigh in on significant health policy issues. Thus, the expansive range of policy-making bodies and groups in the country makes it difficult to have a predictable and systematic review of policy issues. Therefore, health policies are products of the complex interrelationships characterizing context, processes, and actors (Yazbeck & Peters, 2003). From this background, the case study emphasizes the importance of understanding the relationship between politics, epidemiology, ethics, economy and law. The author of the assigned article, Bhattacharya (2013), presents these factors as the five core disciplines affecting public health policies.

Government Policy Associated with the Public Health Issue

Current government policy on diversity, when formulating health policies, supports a collaborative framework between health centers and legal agencies to help patients (especially disadvantaged groups) to get legal advice on their health issues (Bhattacharya, 2013).

Political Issues Surrounding the Public Health Issue

The assigned case study shows that (among other factors) politics plays an important role in the public health policy formulation process (Bhattacharya, 2013). For example, politics lead policymakers to adopt incremental policy changes on health matters, as opposed to holistic changes that could bring comprehensive health reforms. Such situations often occur when policymakers face a lot of public pressure (Ivanov & Blue, 2008). In this regard, politics could influence the conditions that affect larger public health changes.

History of the Government in Influencing the Public Health Issue

The government’s role in influencing public health policies is instrumental in policy implementation processes (Ivanov & Blue, 2008). According to the assigned article, the government has had a good record of helping people to appreciate the multiple forces that affect the creation, development, and implementation of public health policies (Bhattacharya, 2013). For example, the above section of this paper shows how the national government has helped underprivileged patients to seek legal advice from selected advocacy groups. From such interventions, the government helps people to consider the ethical and epidemiological dimensions of public health policies when making decisions about their health. Government intervention has also helped to infuse economic considerations in some common law practices (Ivanov & Blue, 2008). Through the contribution of the judiciary, in the process of public health policy formulation process, the government has also helped to interpret constitutional provisions that affect public health. Therefore, the government has a positive history in influencing the public health issue.

Current Interventions to Address the Public Health Issue

According to the assigned case study, different researchers have introduced unique frameworks to demystify the complexities that characterize public health policies (Bhattacharya, 2013). Michael Marmot’s framework on Social Determinants of Health is an example of such a framework. It demonstrates how the social environment, material factors, health behaviors, and pathophysiological changes (among other factors) affect people’s health behaviors (Bhattacharya, 2013). Other efforts also promote public health education as a strategy of helping people to understand the complexities that underlie policy formulation processes. This way, people can easily learn about how multidisciplinary factors affect public health policies.

Alternative Intervention

According to Yazbeck and Peters (2003), conducting research about public health policies and evaluating the relationships that underlie them are alternative ways of managing the complexities of public health policies. They say the purpose of doing so is to anticipate the opportunities and limitations that would explain the policy formulation process and its implementation challenges (Yazbeck & Peters, 2003). By understanding such information, all stakeholders would develop effective public health policies.

Summary

The assigned case study reveals that public health policies are products of complex processes characterized by extensive negotiations among stakeholders. Contextual, structural, cultural and exogenous factors are some issues that explain the views of interest groups involved in the health policy-making process. Since many people do not understand the complex interrelationships that characterize the policy formulation process, the assigned article shows the literature gaps that exist in understanding the point where politics, ethics, law, and economics merge (in the development of public health policies). Different researchers have outlined unique frameworks that should help us to understand the complex interrelationships that underlie the public health policy formulation process. This paper has shown that Marmot’s framework on Social Determinants of Health is an example of such a framework. It has also shown that doing more research on a public health issue and evaluating its implementation challenges are alternative ways of managing the problem.

References

Baggott, R. (2010). Public Health: Policy and Politics. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bhattacharya, D. (2013). Public health policy: Issues, theories, and advocacy. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ivanov, L., & Blue, C. (2008). Public Health Nursing: Policy, Politics & Practice. London, UK: Cengage Learning.

Yazbeck, A., & Peters, D. (2003). Health Policy Research in South Asia: Building Capacity for Reform. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.