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Health insurance card policy with meds and medical equipment on blue background.

Health policy can be defined as the “decisions, plans, and actions that are undertaken to achieve specific healthcare goals within a society”.  It focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of policies and programs aimed at improving population health outcomes. It involves the study of how health systems function, the analysis of health policies, and the management of healthcare organizations and resources.

According to the World Health Organization, an explicit health policy can achieve several things: it defines a vision for the future; it outlines priorities and the expected roles of different groups; and it builds consensus and informs people.

Health policy often refers to the health-related content of a policy. Understood in this sense, there are many categories of health policies, including global health policy, public health policy, mental health policy, health care services policy, insurance policy, personal healthcare policy, pharmaceutical policy, and policies related to public health such as vaccination policy, tobacco control policy or breastfeeding promotion policy. Health policy may also cover topics related to healthcare delivery, for example of financing and provision, access to care, quality of care, and health equity.

Health policy also includes the governance and implementation of health-related policy, sometimes referred to as health governance,health systems governance or healthcare governance. Conceptual models can help show the flow from health-related policy development to health-related policy and program implementation and to health systems and health outcomes. Policy should be understood as more than a national law or health policy that supports a program or intervention. Operational policies are the rules, regulations, guidelines, and administrative norms that governments use to translate national laws and policies into programs and services.

 The policy process encompasses decisions made at a national or decentralized level (including funding decisions) that affect whether and how services are delivered. Thus, attention must be paid to policies at multiple levels of the health system and over time to ensure sustainable scale-up. A supportive policy environment will facilitate the scale-up of health interventions.

There are many aspects of politics and evidence that can influence the decision of a government, private sector business, or other group to adopt a specific policy. The evidence-based policy relies on the use of science and rigorous studies such as randomized controlled trials to identify programs and practices capable of improving policy-relevant outcomes. Most political debates surround personal healthcare policies, especially those that seek to reform healthcare delivery and can typically be categorized as either philosophical or economic. Philosophical debates center around questions about individual rights, ethics, and government authority, while economic topics include how to maximize the efficiency of healthcare delivery and minimize costs.

The modern concept of healthcare involves access to medical professionals from various fields as well as medical technology, such as medications and surgical equipment. It also involves access to the latest information and evidence from research, including medical research and health services research.

In many countries, it is left to the individual to gain access to healthcare goods and services by paying for them directly as out-of-pocket expenses, and to private sector players in the medical and pharmaceutical industries to develop research. Planning and production of health human resources is distributed among labor market participants.

Other countries have an explicit policies to ensure and support access for all of their citizens, to fund health research, and to plan for adequate numbers, distribution, and quality of health workers to meet healthcare goals. Many governments around the world have established universal healthcare, which takes the burden of healthcare expenses off of private businesses or individuals through a pooling of financial risk. There are a variety of arguments for and against universal healthcare and related health policies.

Healthcare is an important part of health systems and therefore it often accounts for one of the largest areas of spending for both governments and individuals all over the world.

Here are some key aspects of Health Policy and Management in public health: