Health Policy and Planning (Health Pol Plann )

Publisher: Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press


Health Policy and Planning blends such individual specialities as epidemiology health and development economics management and social policy planning and social anthropology into a lively academic mix that constantly stimulates and keeps readers abreast of modern international health care. Health Policy and Planning is covered by the following major indexing services:- Current Contents: Social and Behavioral Sciences EMBASE/Excerpta Medica Social Science Citation Index

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    Health policy and planning (Online)
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Oxford University Press

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Publications in this journal

  • Health Policy and Planning 01/2015;
  • Health Policy and Planning 12/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Despite being central to achieving improved population health outcomes, primary health centres in low- and middle-income settings continue to underperform. Little research exists to adequately explain how and why this is the case. This study aimed to test the relevance and usefulness of an adapted conceptual framework for improving our understanding of the mechanisms and causal pathways influencing primary health centre performance. A theory-driven, case-study approach was adopted. Four Zambian health centres were purposefully selected with case data including health-care worker interviews (n = 60); patient interviews (n = 180); direct observation of facility operations (2 weeks/centre) and key informant interviews (n = 14). Data were analysed to understand how the performance of each site was influenced by the dynamic interactions between system 'hardware' and 'software' acting on mechanisms of accountability. Structural constraints including limited resources created challenging service environments in which work overload and stockouts were common. Health workers' frustration with such conditions interacted with dissatisfaction with salary levels eroding service values and acting as a catalyst for different forms of absenteeism. Such behaviours exacerbated patient-provider ratios and increased the frequency of clinical and administrative shortcuts. Weak health information systems and lack of performance data undermined providers' answerability to their employer and clients, and a lack of effective sanctions undermined supervisors' ability to hold providers accountable for these transgressions. Weak answerability and enforceability contributed to a culture of impunity that masked and condoned weak service performance in all four sites. Health centre performance is influenced by mechanisms of accountability, which are in turn shaped by dynamic interactions between system hardware and system software. Our findings confirm the usefulness of combining Sheikh et al.'s (2011) hardware-software model with Brinkerhoff's (2004) typology of accountability to better understand how and why health centre micro-systems perform (or under-perform) under certain conditions.
    Health Policy and Planning 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The World Health Organization recommends replacement of trans fat with polyunsaturated fat to reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Although several high-income countries have been successful in reducing trans fat in the food supply, low- and middle-income countries such as India may face additional contextual challenges such as the large informal sector, lack of consumer awareness, less enforcement capacity and low availability and affordability of healthier unsaturated fats. The objective of this study was to examine the feasibility and acceptability of multisectoral policy options aimed at supporting trans fat reduction and its replacement with polyunsaturated fats in India. Multisectoral policy options examined in this study were identified using food supply chain analysis. Semi-structured interviews (n = 17) were conducted with key informants from agriculture, trade, finance, retail, industry, food standards, non-governmental organizations and the health professions to gain their views on the feasibility and acceptability of the policy options. Purposive sampling was used to identify key informants. Data were coded and organized based on key themes. There was support for policies aimed at improving the quality of seeds, supporting farmer co-operatives and developing affordable farming equipment suited to smallholders to improve the production of healthier oils. Increasing the role of the private sector to improve links among producers, processors and retailers may help to streamline the fats supply chain in India. Blending healthier oils with oils high in saturated fat, which are currently readily available, could help to improve the quality of fat in the short term. Improving consumer awareness through mass media campaigns and improved labelling may help increase consumer demand for healthier products. Reorienting agricultural policies to support production of healthier oils will help increase their uptake by industry. Policy coherence across sectors will be critical to reduce trans fat intakes and could be improved by increasing engagement among researchers, the private sector and government.
    Health Policy and Planning 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Little is known about the costs and consequences of abortions to women and their households. Our aim was to study both costs and consequences of induced and spontaneous abortions and complications. We carried out a cross-sectional study between February and September 2012 in Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso. Quantitative data of 305 women whose pregnancy ended with either an induced or a spontaneous abortion were prospectively collected on sociodemographic, asset ownership, medical and health expenditures including pre-referral costs following the patient's perspective. Descriptive analysis and regression analysis of costs were performed. We found that women with induced abortion were often single or never married, younger, more educated and had earlier pregnancies than women with spontaneous abortion. They also tended to be more often under parents' guardianship compared with women with spontaneous abortion. Women with induced abortion paid much more money to obtain abortion and treatment of the resulting complications compared with women with spontaneous abortion: US$89 (44 252 CFA ie franc of the African Financial Community) vs US$56 (27 668 CFA). The results also suggested that payments associated with induced abortion were catastrophic as they consumed 15% of the gross domestic product per capita. Additionally, 11-16% of total households appeared to have resorted to coping strategies in order to face costs. Both induced and spontaneous abortions may incur high expenses with short-term economic repercussions on households' poverty. Actions are needed in order to reduce the financial burden of abortion costs and promote an effective use of contraceptives.
    Health Policy and Planning 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND Several countries in sub-Saharan Africa have recently adopted policies that remove user fees for facility-based delivery services. There is little rigorous evidence of the impact of these policies on utilization of delivery services and no evaluations have examined effects on neonatal mortality rates (NMR). In this article, we estimate the causal effect of removing user fees on the proportion of births delivered in facilities, the proportion of births delivered by Caesarean section, and NMR. METHODS We used data from Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in 10 African countries between 1997 and 2012. Kenya, Ghana and Senegal adopted policies removing user fees for facility-based deliveries between 2003 and 2007, while seven other countries not changing user fee policies were used as controls. We used a difference-in-differences (DD) regression approach to control for secular trends in the outcomes that are common across countries and for time invariant differences between countries. RESULTS According to covariate-adjusted DD models, the policy change was consistent with an increase of 3.1 facility-based deliveries per 100 live births (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.9, 5.2) and an estimated reduction of 2.9 neonatal deaths per 1000 births (95% CI: -6.8, 1.0). In relative terms, this corresponds to a 5% increase in facility deliveries and a 9% reduction in NMR. There was no evidence of an increase in Caesarean deliveries. We examined lead and lag-time effects, finding evidence that facility deliveries continued to increase following fee removal. CONCLUSIONS Our findings suggest removing user fees increased facility-based deliveries and possibly contributed to a reduction in NMR. Evidence from this evaluation may be useful to governments weighing the potential benefits of removing user fees.
    Health Policy and Planning 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND In Uganda, community services for febrile children are expanding from presumptive treatment of fever with anti-malarials through the home-based management of fever (HBMF) programme, to include treatment for malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia through Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM). To understand the level of support available, and the capacity and motivation of community health workers to deliver these expanded services, we interviewed community medicine distributors (CMDs), who had been involved in the HBMF programme in Tororo district, shortly before ICCM was adopted. METHODS Between October 2009 and April 2010, 100 CMDs were recruited to participate by convenience sampling. The survey included questionnaires to gather information about the CMDs' work experience and to assess knowledge of fever case management, and in-depth interviews to discuss experiences as CMDs including motivation, supervision and relationships with the community. All questionnaires and knowledge assessments were analysed. Summary contact sheets were made for each of the 100 interviews and 35 were chosen for full transcription and analysis. RESULTS CMDs faced multiple challenges including high patient load, limited knowledge and supervision, lack of compensation, limited drugs and supplies, and unrealistic expectations of community members. CMDs described being motivated to volunteer for altruistic reasons; however, the main benefits of their work appeared related to 'becoming someone important', with the potential for social mobility for self and family, including building relationships with health workers. At the time of the survey, over half of CMDs felt demotivated due to limited support from communities and the health system. CONCLUSIONS Community health worker programmes rely on the support of communities and health systems to operate sustainably. When this support falls short, motivation of volunteers can wane. If community interventions, in increasingly complex forms, are to become the solution to improving access to primary health care, greater attention to what motivates individuals, and ways to strengthen health system support are required.
    Health Policy and Planning 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: To address macro-social and economic determinants of health and equity, there has been growing use of intersectoral action by governments around the world. Health in All Policies (HiAP) initiatives are a special case where governments use cross-sectoral structures and relationships to systematically address health in policymaking by targeting broad health determinants rather than health services alone. Although many examples of HiAP have emerged in recent decades, the reasons for their successful implementation-and for implementation failures-have not been systematically studied. Consequently, rigorous evidence based on systematic research of the social mechanisms that have regularly enabled or hindered implementation in different jurisdictions is sparse. We describe a novel methodology for explanatory case studies that use a scientific realist perspective to study the implementation of HiAP. Our methodology begins with the formulation of a conceptual framework to describe contexts, social mechanisms and outcomes of relevance to the sustainable implementation of HiAP. We then describe the process of systematically explaining phenomena of interest using evidence from literature and key informant interviews, and looking for patterns and themes. Finally, we present a comparative example of how Health Impact Assessment tools have been utilized in Sweden and Quebec to illustrate how this methodology uses evidence to first describe successful practices for implementation of HiAP and then refine the initial framework. The methodology that we describe helps researchers to identify and triangulate rich evidence describing social mechanisms and salient contextual factors that characterize successful practices in implementing HiAP in specific jurisdictions. This methodology can be applied to study the implementation of HiAP and other forms of intersectoral action to reduce health inequities involving multiple geographic levels of government in diverse settings.
    Health Policy and Planning 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The migration of dentists is a major challenge contributing to the oral health system crisis in many countries. This paper explores the origins of the dentist migration problem through a study on international dental graduates, who had migrated to Australia. Life-stories of 49 international dental graduates from 22 countries were analysed in order to discern significant themes and patterns. We focused on their home country experience, including stories on early life and career choice; dental student life; professional life; social and political life; travels; and coming to Australia. Our participants exhibited a commitment to excellence in earlier stages of life and had cultivated a desire to learn more and be involved with the latest technology. Dentists from low- and middle-income countries were also disappointed by the lack of opportunity and were unhappy with the local ethos. Some pointed towards political unrest. Interestingly, participants also carried prior travel learnings and unforgettable memories contributing to their migration. Family members and peers had also influenced participants. These considerations were brought together in four themes explaining the desire to migrate: 'Being good at something', 'Feelings of being let down', 'A novel experience' and 'Influenced by someone'. Even if one of these four themes dominated the narrative, we found that more than one theme, however, coexisted for most participants. We refer to this worldview as 'Global interconnectedness', and identify the development of migration desire as a historical process, stimulated by a priori knowledge (and interactions) of people, place and things. This qualitative study has enriched our understanding on the complexity of the dental migration experience. It supports efforts to achieve greater technical co-operation in issues such as dental education, workforce surveillance and oral health service planning within the context of ongoing global efforts on health professional migration by the World Health Organization and member states.
    Health Policy and Planning 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: In 2008, the Czech Republic instituted a new policy that requires most patients to pay a small fee for some inpatient and outpatient healthcare services. Using the Survey of Health Aging and Retirement in Europe, this article examines the changes in healthcare utilization of Czechs 50 years and older following the new fee requirement by constructing difference-in-differences regression models focusing on four outcome measures: any visits to primary care physician, any hospitalization, number of visits to the primary care physician and number of nights hospitalized. For this population, I find that the likelihood of having any primary care visit decreased after the policy was instituted. The likelihood of reporting any hospitalization was not significantly changed. The predicted number of primary care visits per person declined, but the predicted number of nights spent in a hospital did not. I find only mixed evidence of greater effect of the user fees on some subpopulations compared with others. Those 65 or older reduced their use more than those between 50 and 64, and so did those who consider their health to be good, and the less educated.
    Health Policy and Planning 04/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Immunization in India is marked with stark disparities across gender, caste, wealth and place of residence with severe shortfalls among those disadvantaged in more than one dimension. In this regard, an explicit recognition of intersectionality and intersectional inequalities has 2-fold relevance; one, being the pathway of health inequality and the other being its role as a deterrent of progress particularly at higher (better) levels of health. Against this backdrop, this study examines intersectional inequalities in immunization in India and also suggests a level-sensitive progress assessment method. The study uses group analogue of Gini coefficient for highlighting the magnitude of intersectional inequality and for comprehending its association with immunization level. The results unravel the plight of vulnerable intersectional groups and draw attention to disquieting shortfalls among female SCST (scheduled castes and tribes) children from rural areas. There is also some evidence to indicate leveraging among rural males in matters of immunization and it is further discerned that such gender advantage is greater among rural non-SCST community than the rural SCST group. In concluding, the study calls for intensive immunization planning to improve coverage among vulnerable communities in both rural and urban areas.
    Health Policy and Planning 04/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND Indonesia has insufficient resources to adequately respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and thus faces a great challenge in prioritizing interventions. In many countries, such priority setting processes are typically ad hoc and not transparent leading to unfair decisions. Here, we evaluated the priority setting process in HIV/AIDS control in West Java province against the four conditions of the accountability for reasonableness (A4R) framework: relevance, publicity, appeals and revision, and enforcement. METHODS We reviewed government documents and conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews based on the A4R framework with 22 participants of the 5-year HIV/AIDS strategy development for 2008-13 (West Java province) and 2007-11 (Bandung). RESULTS We found that criteria for priority setting were used implicitly and that the strategies included a wide range of programmes. Many stakeholders were involved in the process but their contribution could be improved and particularly the public and people living with HIV/AIDS could be better engaged. The use of appeal and publicity mechanisms could be more transparent and formally stated. Public regulations are not yet installed to ensure fair priority setting. CONCLUSIONS To increase fairness in HIV/AIDS priority setting, West Java should make improvements on all four conditions of the A4R framework.
    Health Policy and Planning 04/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction Human resource (HR) management is a priority for health systems strengthening in developing countries, yet few studies have empirically examined associations with service quality. The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between HR management and family planning (FP) service quality. METHODS Data came from the 2010 Kenya Service Provision Assessment, a nationally representative health facility assessment. In total, 912 FP consultations from 301 facilities were analysed. Four indices were created to measure quality on reproductive history taking, physical examination, sexually transmitted infections prevention and pill/injectable specific counselling. HR management variables included training in the past year, any and supportive (i.e. with feedback, technical updates and discussion) in-person supervision in the past 6 months and having a written job description. Multivariate linear regression analyses were conducted to estimate coefficients of HR management variables on each of the four quality indices, adjusting for background characteristics of clients, provider and facilities. RESULTS The level of service quality ranged from 16 to 53 out of a maximum score of 100 across the indices. Fifty-two per cent of consultations were done by providers who received supportive in-person supervision in the previous 6 months. In 23% and 38% of consultations, the provider was trained in the past year and had a written job description, respectively. Multivariate analyses indicated that having a written job description was associated with higher service quality in history taking, physical examination and the pill/injectable specific counselling. Other HR management variables were not significantly associated with service quality. CONCLUSION Having a written job description was significantly associated with higher service quality and may be a useful tool for strengthening management practices. The details of such job descriptions and the quality of other management indicators should be explored to better understand the relationship between HR management and FP service quality.
    Health Policy and Planning 04/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: During the last 20 years Lao People's Democratic Republic has successfully developed and adopted some 30 health policies, strategies, decrees and laws in the field of health. Still, the implementation process remains arduous. This article aims at discussing challenges of health policy development and effective implementation by contextualizing the policy evolution over time and by focusing particularly on the National Drug Policy and the Health Care Law. Special attention is given to the role of research in policymaking. The analysis was guided by the conceptual framework of policy context, process, content and actors, combined with an institutional perspective, and showed that effective implementation of a health policy is highly dependent on both structures and agency of those involved in the policy process. The National Drug Policy was formulated and adopted in a short period of time in a resource-scarce setting, but with dedicated policy entrepreneurs and support of concerned international collaborators. Timely introduction of operational health systems research played a crucial role to support the implementation, as well as the subsequent revision of the policy. The development of the Health Care Law took several years and once adopted, the implementation was delayed by institutional legacies and issues concerning the choice of institutional design and financing, despite strong support of the law among the policymakers. Among many factors, timing of the implementation appeared to be of crucial importance, in combination with strong leadership. These two examples show that more research, that problematizes the complex policy environment in combination with improved communication between researchers and policymakers, is necessary to inform about measures for effective implementation. A way forward can be to strengthen the domestic research capacity and the international research collaboration regionally as well as globally.
    Health Policy and Planning 04/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Strengthening research capacity in low- and middle-income countries is one of the most effective ways of advancing their health and development but the complexity and heterogeneity of health research capacity strengthening (RCS) initiatives means it is difficult to evaluate their effectiveness. Our study aimed to enhance understanding about these difficulties and to make recommendations about how to make health RCS evaluations more effective. Through discussions and surveys of health RCS funders, including the ESSENCE on Health Research initiative, we identified themes that were important to health RCS funders and used these to guide a systematic analysis of their evaluation reports. Eighteen reports, produced between 2000 and 2013, representing 12 evaluations, were purposefully selected from 54 reports provided by the funders to provide maximum variety. Text from the reports was extracted independently by two authors against a pre-designed framework. Information about the health RCS approaches, tensions and suggested solutions was re-constructed into a narrative. Throughout the process contacts in the health RCS funder agencies were involved in helping us to validate and interpret our results. The focus of the health RCS evaluations ranged from individuals and institutions to national, regional and global levels. Our analysis identified tensions around how much stakeholders should participate in an evaluation, the appropriate balance between measuring and learning and between a focus on short-term processes vs longer-term impact and sustainability. Suggested solutions to these tensions included early and ongoing stakeholder engagement in planning and evaluating health RCS, modelling of impact pathways and rapid assimilation of lessons learned for continuous improvement of decision making and programming. The use of developmental approaches could improve health RCS evaluations by addressing common tensions and promoting sustainability. Sharing learning about how to do robust and useful health RCS evaluations should happen alongside, not after, health RCS efforts.
    Health Policy and Planning 04/2014;