There is sustained interest in public health circles in assessing the effects of policies on health and health inequalities. We report on the theory, methods and findings of a project which involved an appraisal of current Scottish policy with respect to its potential impacts on mental health and wellbeing.
We developed a method of assessing the degree of alignment between Government policies and the 'evidence base', involving: reviewing theoretical frameworks; analysis of policy documents, and nineteen in-depth interviews with policymakers which explored influences on, and barriers to cross-cutting policymaking and the use of research evidence in decisionmaking.
Most policy documents did not refer to mental health; however most referred indirectly to the determinants of mental health and well-being. Unsurprisingly research evidence was rarely cited; this was more common in health policy documents. The interviews highlighted the barriers to intersectoral policy making, and pointed to the relative value of qualitative and quantitative research, as well as to the imbalance of evidence between "what is known" and "what is to be done".
Healthy public policy depends on effective intersectoral working between government departments, along with better use of research evidence to identify policy impacts. This study identified barriers to both these. We also demonstrated an approach to rapidly appraising the mental health effects of mainly non-health sector policies, drawing on theoretical understandings of mental health and its determinants, research evidence and policy documents. In the case of the social determinants of health, we conclude that an evidence-based approach to policymaking and to policy appraisal requires drawing strongly upon existing theoretical frameworks, as well as upon research evidence, but that there are significant practical barriers and disincentives.
Conceptual frameworks for primary care have evolved over the last 40 years, yet little attention has been paid to the environmental, structural and organizational factors that facilitate or moderate service delivery. Since primary care is now of more interest to policy makers, it is important that they have a comprehensive and balanced conceptual framework to facilitate their understanding and appreciation. We present a conceptual framework for primary care originally developed to guide the measurement of the performance of primary care organizations within the context of a large mixed-method evaluation of four types of models of primary care in Ontario, Canada.
The framework was developed following an iterative process that combined expert consultation and group meetings with a narrative review of existing frameworks, as well as trends in health management and organizational theory.
Our conceptual framework for primary care has two domains: structural and performance. The structural domain describes the health care system, practice context and organization of the practice in which any primary care organization operates. The performance domain includes features of health care service delivery and technical quality of clinical care.
As primary care evolves through demonstration projects and reformed delivery models, it is important to evaluate its structural and organizational features as these are likely to have a significant impact on performance.
conceptual framework; organizational theory; performance measurement; primary care; quality of health care
To examine ways of ensuring access to health services within the framework of primary health care (PHC), since the goal of PHC to make universal health care available to all people has become increasingly neglected amid emerging themes of globalization, trade, and foreign policy. From a public health point of view, we argue that the premise of PHC can unlock barriers to health care services and contribute greatly to determining collective health through the promotion of universal basic health services. PHC has the most sophisticated and organized infrastructure, theories, and political principles, with which it can deal adequately with the issues of inequity, inequality, and social injustice which emerge from negative economic externalities and neo-liberal economic policies. Addressing these issues, especially the complex social and political influences that restrict access to medicines, may require the integration of different health initiatives into PHC. Based on current systems, PHC remains the only conventional health delivery service that can deal with resilient public health problems adequately. However, to strengthen its ability to do so, we propose the revitalization of PHC to incorporate scholarship that promotes human rights, partnerships, research and development, advocacy, and national drug policies. The concept of PHC can improve access; however, this will require the urgent interplay among theoretical, practical, political, and sociological influences arising from the economic, social, and political determinants of ill health in an era of globalization.
The British government has been criticised for according industry interests too much weight in alcohol policy-making. Consequently, it has been argued that alcohol strategy in the UK is built around policies for which the evidence base is weak. This has clear implications for public health. The purpose of this commentary is to map recent developments in UK alcohol policy and related debates within the alcohol policy literature, thus laying the foundations for a systematic examination of the influence of the alcohol industry on alcohol policy. It highlights the changing structure of the industry and summarises what is known about the positions and strategies of industry actors towards alcohol policy. In so doing, it aims to contribute not just to debates about alcohol policy, but to a broader understanding of health policy processes and the relationships between government and other stakeholders. It advances a new research agenda focused on the role of corporate actors in the field of alcohol policy and public health more broadly.
politics; corporate actors; alcohol policy
Despite the central influence of public policies on health and welfare, relatively little is known about actual health care policy-making processes. This presentation will offer preliminary results from a federally funded project aimed at gaining insights into the interrelations among interest-group strategies, media discourses and political debates in health care. The policy debate on health care privatization in Quebec is used as a case study.
Two sources of data were used: media sources and political debates. Media sources were the six main provincial newspapers in Quebec, two national newspapers and The Canadian Press, as well as transcripts from specific news-related programs of three national television stations and two national radio stations. Political debates were obtained through transcripts of all question periods in the Parliament and debates in the standing committee on health. Sources were systematically searched to identify all relevant data. Multiple search syntaxes were developed and tested to maximize sensitivity and specificity. All data was entered and coded into qualitative analysis software.
Data was analyzed longitudinally from June 2005 to January 1, 2010. Four levels of results will be presented: 1) Descriptive analysis of the interest groups involved, their policy preferences and the rhetoric they employed to support their views. 2) Descriptive analysis of the main policy proposals that structured the debate as well as of the coalition of groups behind those proposals. 3) Graphic longitudinal analysis of the intensity of the debate and of the relative importance and evolution of various policy proposals. 4) Preliminary results on the nature, direction and level of inter-influence between the policy and media agendas.
This presentation provides empirical evidence on current policy-making processes in health care. It shows, unsurprisingly, that policy-making is a circumvoluted process of inter-influence among interest groups, politicians and the media. It also highlights the fact that scientific evidence actually plays a minor (if any) role in policy processes.
PMID: 23155352 CAMSID: cams2440
The Ontario health care system is devolving planning and funding authority to community based organizations and moving from steering through rules and regulations to steering on performance. As part of this transformation, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) are interested in using incentives as a strategy to ensure alignment – that is, health service providers' goals are in accord with the goals of the health system. The objective of the study was to develop a decision framework to assist policymakers in choosing and designing effective incentive systems.
The first part of the study was an extensive review of the literature to identify incentives models that are used in the various health care systems and their effectiveness. The second part was the development of policy principles to ensure that the used incentive models are congruent with the values of the Ontario health care system. The principles were developed by reviewing the Ontario policy documents and through discussions with policymakers. The validation of the principles and the suggested incentive models for use in Ontario took place at two meetings. The first meeting was with experts from the research and policy community, the second with senior policymakers from the MOHLTC. Based on the outcome of those two meetings, the researchers built a decision framework for incentives. The framework was send to the participants of both meetings and four additional experts for validation.
We identified several models that have proven, with a varying degree of evidence, to be effective in changing or enabling a health provider's performance. Overall, the literature suggests that there is no single best approach to create incentives yet and the ability of financial and non-financial incentives to achieve results depends on a number of contextual elements. After assessing the initial set of incentive models on their congruence with the four policy principles we defined nine incentive models to be appropriate for use in Ontario and potentially other health care systems that want to introduce incentives to improve performance. Subsequently, the models were incorporated in the resulting decision framework.
The design of an incentive must reflect the values and goals of the health care system, be well matched to the performance objectives and reflect a range of contextual factors that can influence the effectiveness of even well-designed incentives. As a consequence, a single policy recommendation around incentives is inappropriate. The decision framework provides health care policymakers and purchasers with a tool to support the selection of an incentive model that is the most appropriate to improve the targeted performance.
Health care practice based on research evidence requires that evidence is synthesised, and that recommendations based on this evidence are implemented. It also requires an intermediate step: translating synthesised evidence into practice recommendations. There is considerable literature on evidence synthesis and implementation, but little on how guideline development groups (GDGs) produce recommendations. This is a complex process, with many influences on communication and decision-making, e.g., the quality of evidence, methods of presentation, practical/resource constraints, individual values, professional and scientific interests, social and psychological processes. To make this process more transparent and potentially effective, we need to understand these influences. Psychological theories of decision-making and social influence provide a framework for this understanding.
This study aims to investigate the processes by which GDGs formulate recommendations, drawing on psychological theories of decision-making and social influence. The findings will potentially inform the further evolution of GDG methods, such as choice of members and procedures for presenting evidence, conducting discussion and formulating recommendations.
Longitudinal observation of the meetings of three National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) GDGs, one from each of acute, mental health and public health, will be tape recorded and transcribed. Interviews with a sample of GDG members at the beginning, middle, and end of the GDG's work will be recorded and transcribed. Site documents including relevant e-mail interchanges, GDG meeting minutes, and stakeholders' responses to the drafts of the recommendations will be collected. Data will be selected for analysis if they refer to either evidence or recommendations; the focus is on "hot spots", e.g., dilemmas, conflicts, and uncertainty. Data will be analysed thematically and by content analysis, drawing on psychological theories of decision-making and social influence.
Capacity problems and political pressures have led to a rapid change in the organization of primary care from mono disciplinary small business to complex inter-organizational relationships. It is assumed that inter-organizational collaboration is the driving force to achieve integrated (primary) care. Despite the importance of collaboration and integration of services in primary care, there is no unambiguous definition for both concepts. The purpose of this study is to examine and link the conceptualisation and validation of the terms inter-organizational collaboration and integrated primary care using a theoretical framework.
The theoretical framework is based on the complex collaboration process of negotiation among multiple stakeholder groups in primary care.
A literature review of health sciences and business databases, and targeted grey literature sources. Based on the literature review we operationalized the constructs of inter-organizational collaboration and integrated primary care in a theoretical framework. The framework is being validated in an explorative study of 80 primary care projects in the Netherlands.
Results and conclusions
Integrated primary care is considered as a multidimensional construct based on a continuum of integration, extending from segregation to integration. The synthesis of the current theories and concepts of inter-organizational collaboration is insufficient to deal with the complexity of collaborative issues in primary care. One coherent and integrated theoretical framework was found that could make the complex collaboration process in primary care transparent. This study presented theoretical framework is a first step to understand the patterns of successful collaboration and integration in primary care services. These patterns can give insights in the organization forms needed to create a good working integrated (primary) care system that fits the local needs of a population. Preliminary data of the patterns of collaboration and integration will be presented.
primary care; integrated care; inter-organizational relations; collaboration; concepts; terminology; complexity
To create a mechanism in British Columbia (BC) for youth and families to directly engage with key provincial committees that develop policy and implement service delivery for child and youth mental health.
In 2009, a plan was initiated to increase the involvement and influence of youth and families in research, policy, practices and programs related to child and youth mental health. This initiative, led by a provincial family advocacy society in partnership with representatives from health services and government, resulted in the establishment of the Provincial Family Council for Child and Youth Mental Health (PFC). Formation of the PFC occurred in two phases: initially, a Working Group co-chaired by a parent and a youth was tasked with developing the Terms of Reference and framework for the PFC; phase two involved ensuring important constituencies/demographics and competencies were represented in the membership of the PFC. Result: The Provincial Family Council is officially endorsed by the provincial government and is informing key provincial committees in British Columbia.
In BC, the PFC is the vehicle through which youth and families can now work in partnership with “the system” to promote and improve the mental health of BC’s children and youth.
early intervention; parenting; partnerships; family engagement; intervention précoce; rôle des parents; partenariat; engagement de la famille
There is a significant gap in the knowledge translation literature related to how research evidence actually contributes to health care decision-making. Decisions around what care to provide at the population (rather than individual) level are particularly complex, involving considerations such as feasibility, cost, and population needs in addition to scientific evidence. One example of decision-making at this "population-policy" level involves what screening questions and intervention guides to include on standardized provincial prenatal records. As mandatory medical reporting forms, prenatal records are potentially powerful vehicles for promoting population-wide evidence-based care. However, the extent to which Canadian prenatal records reflect best-practice recommendations for the assessment of well-known risk factors such as maternal smoking and alcohol consumption varies markedly across Canadian provinces and territories. The goal of this study is to better understand the interaction of contextual factors and research evidence on decision-making at the population-policy level, by examining the processes by which provincial prenatal records are reviewed and revised.
Guided by Dobrow et al.'s (2004) conceptual model for context-based evidence-based decision-making, this study will use a multiple case study design with embedded units of analysis to examine contextual factors influencing the prenatal record revision process in different Canadian provinces and territories. Data will be collected using multiple methods to construct detailed case descriptions for each province/territory. Using qualitative data analysis techniques, decision-making processes involving prenatal record content specifically related to maternal smoking and alcohol use will be compared both within and across each case, to identify key contextual factors influencing the uptake and application of research evidence by prenatal record review committees. All study participants will be required to give written informed consent prior to participating in data collection.
This study will advance knowledge in the field of evidence-based decision-making by illustrating the complex interaction of contextual factors and evidence on health policy decision-making by provincial-level committees. By increasing the transparency of decision-making within provincial prenatal record committees, this study will help inform more effective strategies for enhancing the integration of best-practice evidence into prenatal records.
Policy making in health is largely thought to be driven by three ‘I’s namely ideas, interests and institutions. Recent years have seen a shift in approach with increasing reliance being placed on role of evidence for policy making. The present article ascertains the role of ideas and ideologies in shaping evidence which is used to aid in policy decisions. The article discusses different theories of research-policy interface and the relative freedom of research-based evidence from the influence of ideas. Examples from developed and developed countries are cited to illustrate the contentions made. The article highlights the complexity of the process of evidence-based policy making, in a world driven by existing political, social and cultural ideologies. Consideration of this knowledge is paramount where more efforts are being made to bridge the gap between the ‘two worlds’ of researchers and policy makers to make evidence-based policy as also for policy analysts.
Health policy; Research; Evidence-based policy; Ideas; Ideology
Many strategies are commonly used to influence physician behavior in
managed care organizations. This review examines the effectiveness of three
mechanisms to influence physician behavior: financial incentives directed at
providers or patients, policies/procedures for managing care, and the
selection/education of both providers and patients. We reach three conclusions.
First, all health care systems use financial incentives, but these mechanisms
are shifting away from financial incentives directed at the physician to those
directed at the consumer. Second, heavily procedural strategies such as
utilization review and gatekeeping show some evidence of effectiveness but are
highly unpopular due to their restrictions on physician and patient choice.
Third, a future system built on consumer choice is contradicted by mechanisms
that rely solely on narrow networks of providers or the education of physicians.
If patients become the new locus of decision-making in health care,
provider-focused mechanisms to influence physician behavior will not disappear
but are likely to decline in importance.
Managed care; physician behavior; incentives; utilization management
To apply social science theory so as to define more explicitly the pathways that influence policy makers' use of health services research.
The analysis builds on a literature review and the author's observations. It identifies important social science concepts relevant to use of research in policy and organizational decision making. It integrates and expands upon existing frameworks to differentiate and analyze 10 pathways that can lead to the use of health services research by policy makers.
The process through which research is applied involves many factors, only some of which are amenable to influence by researchers. Within these constraints, multiple pathways can drive research use; no one of these is likely to perform better in all circumstances. Successful uptake is more likely when these pathways cause findings to be converted into messages meaningful to policy makers. Various intermediaries play an important role in creating effective pathways, while users also can influence them.
The pathways open up what too often is an unexplored “black box” that mediates between health services research and its use by policy makers. Such pathways can help stakeholders to bridge different perspectives in ways that strengthen the possibility that effective research will be supported and used.
Health services research; translational research; dissemination; policy making
This case study examines how the tobacco industry worked through third parties to prevent policy relevant research that adversely affects it. Between 1988 and 1998 the industry used coordinated, well-funded strategies in repeated attempts to silence a researcher (Stanton Glantz). Tactics included running an advertisement, litigation, and inserting an amendment into a House appropriations bill for the National Cancer Institute to end the researcher's funding. The industry refined an “Echo Chamber Approach” in an effort to dominate the environment in which public officials make policy decisions. These efforts have serious potential for influencing the policy process by silencing voices critical of powerful interests and discouraging other scientists from getting involved in areas that may attract attacks from such interests. The support of researchers' and scientists' employers and highly credible public health organizations during times of industry challenge is crucial to the continued advancement of public health.
Interest in and debates around health literacy have grown over the last two decades and key to the discussions has been the distinction made between basic functional health literacy, communicative/interactive health literacy and critical health literacy. Of these, critical health literacy is the least well developed and differing interpretations of its constituents and relevance exist. The aim of this study is to rigorously analyse the concept of critical health literacy in order to offer some clarity of definition upon which appropriate theory, well grounded practice and potential measurement tools can be based.
The study uses a theoretical and colloquial evolutionary concept analysis method to systematically identify the features associated with this concept. A unique characteristic of this method is that it practically combines an analysis of the literature with in depth interviews undertaken with practitioners and policy makers who have an interest in the field. The study also analyses how the concept is understood across the contexts of time, place, discipline and use by health professionals, policy makers and academics.
Findings revealed a distinct set of characteristics of advanced personal skills, health knowledge, information skills, effective interaction between service providers and users, informed decision making and empowerment including political action as key features of critical health literacy. The potential consequences of critical health literacy identified are in improving health outcomes, creating more effective use of health services and reducing inequalities in health thus demonstrating the relevance of this concept to public health and health promotion.
While critical health literacy is shown to be a unique concept, there remain significant contextual variations in understanding particularly between academics, practitioners and policy makers. Key attributes presented as part of this concept when it was first introduced in the literature, particularly those around empowerment, social and political action and the existence of the concept at both an individual and population level, have been lost in more recent representations. This has resulted in critical health literacy becoming restricted to a higher order cognitive individual skill rather than a driver for political and social change. The paper argues that in order to retain the uniqueness and usefulness of the concept in practice efforts should be made to avoid this dilution of meaning.
Critical health literacy; Health literacy; Empowerment; Concept analysis
The PARiHS framework (Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services) has proved to be a useful practical and conceptual heuristic for many researchers and practitioners in framing their research or knowledge translation endeavours. However, as a conceptual framework it still remains untested and therefore its contribution to the overall development and testing of theory in the field of implementation science is largely unquantified.
This being the case, the paper provides an integrated summary of our conceptual and theoretical thinking so far and introduces a typology (derived from social policy analysis) used to distinguish between the terms conceptual framework, theory and model – important definitional and conceptual issues in trying to refine theoretical and methodological approaches to knowledge translation.
Secondly, the paper describes the next phase of our work, in particular concentrating on the conceptual thinking and mapping that has led to the generation of the hypothesis that the PARiHS framework is best utilised as a two-stage process: as a preliminary (diagnostic and evaluative) measure of the elements and sub-elements of evidence (E) and context (C), and then using the aggregated data from these measures to determine the most appropriate facilitation method. The exact nature of the intervention is thus determined by the specific actors in the specific context at a specific time and place.
In the process of refining this next phase of our work, we have had to consider the wider issues around the use of theories to inform and shape our research activity; the ongoing challenges of developing robust and sensitive measures; facilitation as an intervention for getting research into practice; and finally to note how the current debates around evidence into practice are adopting wider notions that fit innovations more generally.
The paper concludes by suggesting that the future direction of the work on the PARiHS framework is to develop a two-stage diagnostic and evaluative approach, where the intervention is shaped and moulded by the information gathered about the specific situation and from participating stakeholders. In order to expedite the generation of new evidence and testing of emerging theories, we suggest the formation of an international research implementation science collaborative that can systematically collect and analyse experiences of using and testing the PARiHS framework and similar conceptual and theoretical approaches.
We also recommend further refinement of the definitions around conceptual framework, theory, and model, suggesting a wider discussion that embraces multiple epistemological and ontological perspectives.
To propose a social-and-democrat health policy alternative to the current neoliberal one.
Context of case
The general failure of neoliberal health policies in low and middle-income countries justifies the design of an alternative to bring disease control and health care back in step with ethical principles and desired outcomes.
National policies, international programmes and pilot experiments—including those led by the authors—are examined in both scientific and grey literature.
We call for the promotion of a publicly-oriented health sector as a cornerstone of such alternative policy. We define ‘publicly-oriented’ as opposed to ‘private-for-profit’ in terms of objectives and commitment, not of ownership. We classify development strategies for such a sector according to an organisation-based typology of health systems defined by Mintzberg. As such, strategies are adapted to three types of health systems: machine bureaucracies, professional bureaucracies and divisionalized forms.
We describe avenues for family and community health and for hospital care. We stress social control at the peripheral level to increase accountability and responsiveness. Community-based, national and international sources are required to provide viable financing.
Conclusions and discussion
Our proposed social-and-democrat health policy calls for networking, lobbying and training as a joint effort in which committed health professionals can lead the way.
developing countries; health policy; disease control; health care services; integration
The unique drinking patterns of college students call for Event-Specific Prevention (ESP) strategies that address college student drinking associated with peak times and events. Despite limited research evaluating ESP, many college campuses are currently implementing programming for specific events. The present paper provides a review of existing literature related to ESP and offers practical guidance for research and practice. The prevention typology proposed by DeJong and Langford (2002) provides a framework for strategic planning, suggesting that programs and policies should address problems at the individual, group, institution, community, state, and society level, and that these interventions should focus on knowledge change, environmental change, health protection, and intervention and treatment services. From this typology, specific examples are provided for comprehensive program planning related to orientation/beginning of school year, homecoming, 21st birthday celebrations, spring break, and graduation. In addition, the University of Connecticut’s efforts to address problems resulting from its annual Spring Weekend are described as an illustration of how advance planning by campus and community partners can produce a successful ESP effort.
College; Alcohol; Prevention; Intervention; Policy
Current healthcare systems have extended the evidence-based medicine (EBM) approach to health policy and delivery decisions, such as access-to-care, healthcare funding and health program continuance, through attempts to integrate valid and reliable evidence into the decision making process. These policy decisions have major impacts on society and have high personal and financial costs associated with those decisions. Decision models such as these function under a shared assumption of rational choice and utility maximization in the decision-making process.
We contend that health policy decision makers are generally unable to attain the basic goals of evidence-based decision making (EBDM) and evidence-based policy making (EBPM) because humans make decisions with their naturally limited, faulty, and biased decision-making processes. A cognitive information processing framework is presented to support this argument, and subtle cognitive processing mechanisms are introduced to support the focal thesis: health policy makers' decisions are influenced by the subjective manner in which they individually process decision-relevant information rather than on the objective merits of the evidence alone. As such, subsequent health policy decisions do not necessarily achieve the goals of evidence-based policy making, such as maximizing health outcomes for society based on valid and reliable research evidence.
In this era of increasing adoption of evidence-based healthcare models, the rational choice, utility maximizing assumptions in EBDM and EBPM, must be critically evaluated to ensure effective and high-quality health policy decisions. The cognitive information processing framework presented here will aid health policy decision makers by identifying how their decisions might be subtly influenced by non-rational factors. In this paper, we identify some of the biases and potential intervention points and provide some initial suggestions about how the EBDM/EBPM process can be improved.
Tobacco industry funding was instrumental in creating and financing the Consumer Tax Alliance in 1989 as an ostensibly organization that relied upon extensive media outreach to build opposition to excise taxes as a regressive form of taxation. By obscuring its own role in this effort, the tobacco industry undermined the public’s reasonable expectations for transparency in the policy making process.
To examine the formation and activities of the Consumer Tax Alliance as a “hybrid” form of interest group in order to provide tobacco control and public health advocates with a better understanding of unanticipated tobacco industry coalitions and facilitate appropriate counter measures.
Document searches through the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library and through Tobacco Documents Online and review of background literature.
The Tobacco Institute actively sought liberal allies beginning in the mid-1980s in seeking to build public opposition to cigarette excise tax increases by promoting them as a regressive form of taxation. The creation of the Consumer Tax Alliance in 1989 was expressly intended to turn labor and middle class opinion against prospective excise tax increases in federal budget deficit negotiations, without divulging the tobacco industry’s role in its formation.
It is important to understand the dynamic by which trusted organizations can be induced to alter their agendas in response to funding sources. Advocates need to understand this form of interest group behavior so that they are better able to negotiate the policy arena by diagnosing and exposing this influence where it occurs and, by doing so, be better prepared to take appropriate counter measures.
What this paper adds
The tobacco industry’s political strategies for utilizing third party efforts to contest cigarette excise tax increases have not been extensively studied. While there has been some attention to industry sponsorship of third parties, the Consumer Tax Alliance represented a “hybrid” form of interest group alliance. Created in the 1990s with tobacco industry funding, the Consumer Tax Alliance included legitimate public interest groups as sponsors, but who did not appear to be actively involved in its operations. The formation and activities of the Consumer Tax Alliance provide an instructive lens for introducing a novel form of third party activity to the tobacco industry’s policy efforts.
Cigarette excise taxes; politics of tobacco control; public interest groups; tobacco control and media
The issue of the allocation of resources in health care is here to stay. The goal of this study was to explore the views of physicians on several topics that have arisen in the debate on the allocation of scarce resources and to compare these with the views of policy makers. We asked physicians (oncologists, cardiologists, and nursing home physicians) and policy makers to participate in an interview about their practices and opinions concerning factors playing a role in decision making for patients in different age groups. Both physicians and policy makers recognised allocation decisions as part of their reality. One of the strong general opinions of both physicians and policy makers was the rejection of age discrimination. Making allocation decisions as such seemed to be regarded as a foreign entity to the practice of medicine. In spite of the reluctance to make allocation decisions, physicians sometimes do. This would seem to be only acceptable if it is justified in terms of the best interests of the patient from whom treatment is withheld.
Statements on potential measures to improve palliative care in Germany predominantly reflect the points of view of experts from specialized palliative care organizations. By contrast, relatively little is known about the views of representatives of organizations and institutions that do not explicitly specialize in palliative care, but are involved to a relevant extent in the decision-making and policy-making processes. Therefore, for the first time in Germany, we carried out a representative study of the attitudes of a broad range of different stakeholders acting at the national or state level of the health care system.
442 organizations and institutions were included and grouped as follows: patient organizations, nursing organizations, medical associations, specialized palliative care organizations, political institutions, health insurance funds and others. Using a standardized questionnaire, the participants were asked to rate their agreement with the World Health Organization's definition of palliative care (five-point scale: 1 = completely agree, 5 = completely disagree) and to evaluate 18 pre-selected improvement measures with regard to their general meaningfulness and the feasibility of their introduction into the German health care system (two-point scale: 1 = good, 2 = poor).
The response rate was 67%. Overall, the acceptance of the aims of palliative care in the WHO definition was strong. However, the level of agreement among health insurance funds' representatives was significantly less than that among representatives of the palliative care organizations. All the improvement measures selected for evaluation were rated significantly higher in respect of their meaningfulness than of their feasibility in Germany. In detail, the meaningfulness of 16 measures was evaluated positively (70–100% participants chose the answer "good"); for six of these measures feasibility was evaluated negatively (0–30% "good"), while for the remaining ten measures feasibility was evaluated inconsistently (31–69% "good").
The reason why potentially meaningful improvement measures are considered to be not very feasible in Germany may be the existence of barriers resulting from the high degree of fragmentation of health care provision and responsibilities. In overcoming these barriers and further improving palliative care it may be helpful that the basic understanding of the palliative care approach seems to be quite homogenous among the different groups.
Most proposals to reform health care delivery center on a robust, well-designed primary care sector capable of reducing the health and cost consequences of major chronic illnesses. Ironically, the intensified policy interest in primary care coincides with a steep decline in the proportion of medical students choosing primary care careers. Negativity stemming from the experience of trying to care for chronically ill patients with complex conditions in poorly designed, chaotic primary care teaching settings may be influencing trainees to choose other career paths. Redesigning teaching clinics so that they routinely provide high quality, well-organized chronic care would appear to be a critical early step in addressing the looming primary care workforce crisis. The Chronic Care Model provides a proven framework for such a redesign, and has been, with organizational support and effort, successfully implemented in academic settings.
primary care; chronic illness care; academic medical centers
Delivering an intervention to a group of patients to improve health outcomes is increasingly popular in public health and primary care, yet "group" is an umbrella term which encompasses a complex range of aims, theories, implementation processes and evaluation methods. We propose a framework for the design and process evaluation of health improvement interventions occurring in a group setting, which will assist practitioners, researchers and policy makers.
We reviewed the wider literature on health improvement interventions delivered to patient groups and identified a gap in the literature for designing, evaluating and reporting these interventions. We drew on our experiences conducting systematic reviews, intervention, mixed method and ethnographic studies of groups for breastfeeding and weight management. A framework for health improvement group design and delivery evolved through an iterative process of primary research, reference to the literature and research team discussion.
Although there is an extensive literature on group processes in education, work, politics and psychological therapies, far less is known about groups where the aim is health improvement. Theories of behaviour change which are validated for individual use are often assumed to be generalisable to group settings, without being rigorously tested. Health improvement or behaviour change interventions delivered in a group setting are complex adaptive social processes with interactions between the group leader, participants, and the wider community and environment. Ecological models of health improvement, which embrace the complex relationship between behaviour, systems and the environment may be more relevant than an individual approach to behaviour change.
The evidence for effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of group compared with one-to-one interventions for many areas of health improvement in public health and primary care is weak or unknown. Our proposed framework is the first step towards advocating a more systematic approach to designing, evaluating and reporting interventions in group settings, which is necessary to improve this currently weak evidence base. This framework will enable policy makers and practitioners to be better informed about what works, how it works and in which contexts when aiming to improve health in a group setting.
Research findings are increasingly being recognized as an important input in the formation of health policy. There is concern that research findings are not being utilized by health policy-makers to the extent that they could be. The factors influencing the utilization of various types of research by health policy-makers are beginning to emerge in the literature, however there is still little known about these factors in developing countries. The object of this study was to explore these factors by examining the policy-making process for a pharmaceutical policy common in developing countries; an essential medicines list.
A study of the selection and updating of Mali's national essential medicines list was undertaken using qualitative methods. In-depth semi-structured interviews and a natural group discussion were held with national policy-makers, most specifically members of the national commission that selects and updates the country's list. The resulting text was analyzed using a phenomenological approach. A document analysis was also performed.
Several factors emerged from the textual data that appear to be influencing the utilization of health research findings for these policy-makers. These factors include: access to information, relevance of the research, use of research perceived as a time consuming process, trust in the research, authority of those who presented their view, competency in research methods, priority of research in the policy process, and accountability.
Improving the transfer of research to policy will require effort on the part of researchers, policy-makers, and third parties. This will include: collaboration between researchers and policy-makers, increased production and dissemination of relevant and useful research, and continued and improved technical support from networks and multi-national organizations. Policy-makers from developing countries will then be better equipped to make informed decisions concerning their health policy issues.