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Introducing the healthcare policy development process

The healthcare policy development process within highly diverse and complicated modern societies is often complex and unpredictable.

This is also a reflection of the fact that health is a complex multidimensional concept that is influenced by determinants external to the healthcare system. As a result, the precise nature of healthcare policy development differs even within countries according to the local, historical and sociocultural contexts.

Rational vs iterative healthcare policy development

The process of healthcare policy development can be characterised as rational or iterative. The rational approach assumes that the most effective method of policy development involves the adoption of systematic phases to policy formulation.

This simplistic way of viewing policy development is often criticised by contemporary policy analysts who conceive the process to be rather iterative. This multifaceted approach recognises the multiple stakeholder involvement that often masks the clearly delineated processes of policy development. This becomes clearly apparent in the real world, when policy decisions do not lead to congruent actions.

The WHO framework

According to Mebane and Blendon (2001), there is no single widely acceptable blueprint that is inherently apt and self-sufficient to guide the process of policy development. However, the World Health Organization (WHO 2020) provided the following framework to guide national and local policy development, consisting of six key elements:

  • Engaging stakeholders
  • Situation analysis and priority setting
  • Bringing it all together
  • From vision to operational
  • Costing plans
  • Monitoring and evaluation


Mebane, F., and Blendon, R. (2001). Political Strategy 101: How to Make Health Policy and Influence Political People. Journal Of Child Neurology, 16(7).https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/permalink/f/1ea4mrv/TN_sage_s10_1177_088307380101600711

World Health Organization. (2020). National Health Policies, Strategies and Plans. https://who.int/nationalpolicies/processes/en

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This article is from the free online course:

Policy Formulation and Analysis in Healthcare

Coventry University