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Healthcare policy and politics

This step examines the extent to which politics have an impact on healthcare policy.

The importance of healthcare as a political issue

Healthcare policy is considered a top priority on most political agendas around the world. Globally, issues related to healthcare are of great political interest. A review of the Millennium Development Goals shows significant global improvements in health – for example, the management of infant mortality and HIV – but argues more is to be done to improve equitable health (Mensah Abrampah 2018).

The importance of politics in healthcare policy

Politics is considered a necessary part of the policy process where multiple interest groups compete to achieve individual goals. Politics is of importance not only to politicians and policymakers who finance and determine the delivery of healthcare services, but also to the service providers who deliver healthcare services, and ultimately the end users as well.

Central to the political agenda are debates on who bears the burden for healthcare financing, how are healthcare services delivered, and what measures are put in place to assess the quality of the healthcare services delivered (Green and Thorogood 1998: 1).

Healthcare is inherently political. The healthcare sector is arguably the largest single industry in any country, employing a huge number of the overall workforce. The NHS employs 1.7 million people and is the fifth-largest employer in the world (Nuffield Trust 2017). The process of policy formation and implementation involves a complex web of processes by various political actors cutting across the private and public sectors.

This complex web of processes is in addition to the number of interest groups influencing health politics and policymaking. Politics, in most states, provides a framework for participation in policies. It gives direction and aids in the regulation of pharmaceuticals, healthcare provisions to ensure food and water safety, and border control to contain the emergence and spread of communicable diseases. The interested groups are involved in the provision of preventive, promotive and curative services to the population.


Ehlinger, E. (2016). State Public Health. https://www.astho.org/StatePublicHealth/Annual-Meeting-2016-Slide-Decks/

Green, J., & Thorogood, N. (1998). Analysing Health Policy. Longman

Mensah Abrampah, N., Syed, S. B., Hirschhorn, L. R., Nambiar, B., Iqbal, U., Garcia-Elorrio, E., Chattu, V. K., Devnani, M., & Kelley, E. (2018). Quality Improvement and Emerging Global Health Priorities. International Journal for Quality in Health Care: Journal of the International Society for Quality in Health Care, 30(1), 5–9. https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/permalink/f/1ea4mrv/TN_medline29873793

Nuffield Trust. (2017). The NHS is the World’s Fifth Largest Employer. https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/chart/the-nhs-is-the-world-s-fifth-largest-employer

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Policy Formulation and Analysis in Healthcare

Coventry University