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Making Health Policy: A Critical Introduction

Making Health Policy: A Critical Introduction

Andy Alaszewski, Patrick Brown

ISBN: 978-0-745-64174-4 December 2011 Polity 208 Pages


In Stock



This new textbook opens up the policy-making process for students, uncovering how government decisions around health are really made. Starting from more traditional insights into how ministers and civil servants develop policy with limited knowledge and money, the book goes on to challenge the conception of policy as a rational process, revealing it to be something quite different.

Knee-jerk reactions to disasters, keeping voters satisfied, the powerful leverage of interest groups, and the skewing of debate through ideology and the media are each considered in turn. These processes render policy far from rational or at least require a much broader approach for considering policy ‘logic’, one that is open to different rationalities of values, norms and pragmatism. The book draws on historical and contemporary examples to highlight that though challenges to policy-makers may seem in some ways novel, in many senses key processes endure and indeed are rooted in historical contexts. Although the examples are drawn from UK health and social care, the book’s theory-driven approach is applicable across national contexts Ð especially for countries where uncertainty, risk and resource pressures create significant dilemmas for policy-makers.

The book’s multi-perspective, thematic approach will be especially relevant to students, as will the broad range of case study examples used. Making Health Policy will be essential reading for students of health policy, social policy, social work, and the sociology of medicine, health and illness.



1. What is health policy?

Part 1 Rationality in policy making

2. Trying to achieve rational health policy: the search for appropriate knowledge and expertise

3. The competition for money and the limits of instrumental rationality

4. Power and influence in policy making: Policy communities and networks

5. The pressure of events: Disasters, inquiries and the dynamics of blame

Part 2 The limits of rationality in policy making

6. Identifying health and social problems: Competition between interest groups and claims making

7. How does the nature of modern democracy shape the formation of health policy?

8. Ideology and policy: legitimating, bounding and framing

9. The impact of the media on health policy making

Part 3 Conclusion

10. So how and why are health policies made? Some final comments


"This readable and accessible book provides many novel insights into the policy-making process, a broad span of well-chosen historical and contemporary health examples, and a range of perspectives to consider in relation to the analysis of health policy making."
Health Sociology Review

"This introductory text offers a novel approach to health policy making, challenging the conception of policy as a rational process. Written in an accessible style it is essential reading for undergraduate students of health policy."
Jonathan Gabe, Royal Holloway, University of London

"This book should be essential reading for any student interested in engaging with and critically reflecting on how health policy is shaped in contemporary society. Drawing on well chosen historical and contemporary examples, Making Health Policy engages with the complex, contingent, and contested arena of health policy making. Students will find the valuable insights provided in this book enormously useful in understanding contemporary and ongoing debates around the fashioning of health policy."
Nick Emmel, University of Leeds

"Alaszewski and Brown's historical reach and deep understanding of health policy going back 30 years makes this a highly readable, original, insightful and well-informed study that also manages to be remarkably up-to-date. Recommended reading for everyone interested in how health policy gets made and why it doesn't always happen as intended."
David J. Hunter, Durham University

  • A thoughtful and insightful textbook introduction to how health policy is made.
  • Pays attention to the social and political processes which structure what decisions are taken about health policy.
  • Addresses issues such as politicians’ eagerness to please voters, the power of the media, and the role of pressure groups.
  • Written by respected figures in the field.