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1.  How do government health departments in Australia access health economics advice to inform decisions for health? A survey 
Background
Government anticipates that health economic analysis will contribute to evidence-based policy development. Early examples in Australia where this expectation has been met include the economic evaluations of breast and cervical screening. However, the level of integration of health economics within health services that require this advice appears uneven. We sought to describe how government health departments in Australia use specialist health economic advice to inform policy and planning and the mechanisms through which they access this advice.
Methods
Information describing the arrangements for gaining health economics input into health decision-making was sought through interviews with a purposeful sample of economists and non-economists employed by all departments of health in Australia (state, territories and national). The survey was undertaken in August 2004. To aid interpretation of the results eight health economic functions were identified. As a comparison, four other government departments in NSW provided information about their access to economic advice.
Results
All health departments except one reported being current users of health economics expertise. A variety of arrangements were described to source this, from building organisational capacity with self-sufficient in-house units to forging links with external sources. However, specialist positions for economists or health economists employed within health were few. A framework mapping these arrangements for sourcing advice with the eight common health economic functions to be met is presented. All other non-health government departments approached accessed economic advice, with three having in-house units.
Discussion
A small health economics capacity in Australia has been established over the past 30 years through a variety of structural and strategic mechanisms. Health departments value health economic advice and use a variety of arrangements to obtain this. These arrangements have strengths and weaknesses depending upon the task to be undertaken. The lack of uniformity of approach suggests that health departments are still seeking the best ways to incorporate this form of specialist advice into mainstream decision-making.
Implications
Summarises ways that governments source specialist services. Demonstrates how to describe an organisation's need for specialist services as a set of functions. This approach could be applied to assessing need for other specialist areas of advice.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-6-6
PMCID: PMC2674050  PMID: 19358711
2.  Analysing NSW state policy for child obesity prevention: strategic policy versus practical action 
Background
There is increasing worldwide recognition of the need for government policies to address the recent increases in the incidence and prevalence of childhood obesity. The complexity and inter-relatedness of the determinants of obesity pose a genuine policy challenge, both scientifically and politically. This study examines the characteristics of one of the early policy responses, the NSW Government's Prevention of Obesity in Children and Young People: NSW Government Action Plan 2003–2007 (GAP), as a case study, assessing it in terms of its content and capacity for implementation.
Results
This policy was designed as an initial set of practical actions spanning five government sectors. Most of the policy actions fitted with existing implementation systems within NSW government, and reflected an incremental approach to policy formulation and implementation.
Conclusion
As a case study, the NSW Government Action Plan illustrates that childhood obesity policy development and implementation are at an early stage. This policy, while limited, may have built sufficient commitment and support to create momentum for more strategic policy in the future. A more sophisticated, comprehensive and strategic policy which can also be widely implemented and evaluated should now be built on this base.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-4-22
PMCID: PMC2104535  PMID: 17935632

Results 1-2 (2)