Gilson, L (Lucy)
Health Policy Plan. 2012 Jul 23;: 22826517
Actor interfaces and practices of power in a community health worker programme: a South African study of unintended policy outcomes.
School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Observatory, South Africa, Department of Global Health and Development, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
This paper makes a contribution to a much-neglected aspect of policy analysis: the practice of power in implementation. Practices of power are at the heart of every policy process, yet are rarely explicitly explored in the health policy literature. This paper provides a detailed study of micro-practices of power by those at the frontline of service delivery in the implementation of a national community health worker policy in one rural South African sub-district.The paper is based on a small-scale qualitative study which collected data through observations, interviews and focus group discussions with health services and facility managers, community health workers and community members.Practices of power were analysed using VeneKlasen and Miller's categorization of multiple dimensions of power, as power over, power with, power to and power within. Furthermore, the concept of 'actor interface analysis' allowed exploration of different actors' experience, interests and their specific location in the landscape of local health system governance.The study revealed that almost all policy actors exercised some form of power, from authoritative power, derived from hierarchy and budget control, to the discretionary power of those working at lower levels to withhold labour or organize in-service training. Each of these practices of power had their rationale in different actors' efforts to make the intervention 'fit' their understandings of local reality. While each had a limited impact on policy outcomes, their cumulative effect produced a significant thinning down of the policy's intent. However, discretionary power was not always used to undermine policy. One manager's use of discretionary power in fact led to a partial reconstruction of the original policy intent.The paper concludes that understanding and being responsive to the complexity of local realities, interests and contexts and the multi-layered practices of power may allow managers to adopt more appropriate management strategies.
Guidance for evidence-informed policies about health systems: linking guidance development to policy development.
John N Lavis, John-Arne Røttingen, Xavier Bosch-Capblanch, Rifat Atun, Fadi El-Jardali, Lucy Gilson, Simon Lewin, Sandy Oliver, Pierre Ongolo-Zogo, Andy Haines
McMaster Health Forum, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. email@example.com
Most cited papers:
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org
In this article we outline research since 1995 on the impact of various financing strategies on access to health services or health outcomes in low income countries. The limited evidence available suggests, in general, that user fees deterred utilisation. Prepayment or insurance schemes offered potential for improving access, but are very limited in scope. Conditional cash payments showed promise for improving uptake of interventions, but could also create a perverse incentive. The largely African origin of the reports of user fees, and the evidence from Latin America on conditional cash transfers, demonstrate the importance of the context in which studies are done. There is a need for improved quality of research in this area. Larger scale, upfront funding for evaluation of health financing initiatives is necessary to ensure an evidence base that corresponds to the importance of this issue for achieving development goals.
Centre for Health Policy, University of Witwaters and and Health Economics and Financing Programme, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Johannesburg, South Africa
Health systems are inherently relational and so many of the most critical challenges for health systems are relationship and behaviour problems. Yet the disciplinary perspectives that underlie traditional health policy analysis offer only limited and partial insights into human behaviour and relationships. The health sector, therefore, has much to learn from the wider literature on behaviour and the factors that influence it. A central feature of recent debates, particularly, but not only, in relation to social capital, is trust and its role in facilitating collective action, that is co-operation among people to achieve common goals. The particular significance of trust is that it offers an alternative approach to the economic individualism that has driven public policy analysis in recent decades. This paper considers what the debates on trust have to offer health policy analysis by exploring the meaning, bases and outcomes of trust, and its relevance to health systems. It, first, presents a synthesis of theoretical perspectives on the notion of trust. Second, it argues both that trust underpins the co-operation within health systems that is necessary to health production, and that a trust-based health system can make an important contribution to building value in society. Finally, five conclusions are drawn for an approach to health policy analysis that takes trust seriously.
Centre for Health Policy University of Witwatersrand, PO Box 1038, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa. Lucy.email@example.com
Health systems and access to antiretroviral drugs for HIV in Southern Africa: service delivery and human resources challenges.
Centre for Health Policy, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Helen.Schneider@nhls.ac.za
Without strengthened health systems, significant access to antiretroviral (ARV) therapy in many developing countries is unlikely to be achieved. This paper reflects on systemic challenges to scaling up ARV access in countries with both massive epidemics and weak health systems. It draws on the authors' experience in southern Africa and the World Health Organization's framework on health system performance. Whilst acknowledging the still significant gap in financing, the paper focuses on the challenges of reorienting service delivery towards chronic disease care and the human resource crisis in health systems. Inadequate supply, poor distribution, low remuneration and accelerated migration of skilled health workers are increasingly regarded as key systems constraints to scaling up of HIV treatment. Problems, however, go beyond the issue of numbers to include productivity and cultures of service delivery. As more countries receive funds for antiretroviral access programmes, strong national stewardship of these programmes becomes increasingly necessary. The paper proposes a set of short- and long-term stewardship tasks, which include resisting the verticalisation of HIV treatment, the evaluation of community health workers and their potential role in HIV treatment access, international action on the brain drain, and greater investment in national human resource functions of planning, production, remuneration and management.
Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Private Bag 3, P.O. Wits, Johannesburg 2050, South Africa. firstname.lastname@example.org
This study investigates how a group of nurses based in busy urban primary care health clinics experienced the implementation of the free care (the removal of fees) and other South African national health policies introduced after 1996. The study aimed to capture the perceptions and perspectives of front-line providers (street-level bureaucrats) concerning the process of policy implementation. Using qualitative and quantitative research methods, the study paid particular attention to the personal and professional consequences of the free care policy; the factors which influence nurses' responses to policy changes such as free care; and what they perceive to be barriers to effective policy implementation. The research reveals firstly that nurses' views and values inform their implementation of health policy; secondly that nurses feel excluded from the process of policy change; and finally that social, financial and human resources are insufficiently incorporated into the policy implementation process. The study recommends that the practice of policy change be viewed through the lens of the 'street-level bureaucrat' and highlights three sets of related managerial actions.
The terrain of health policy analysis in low and middle income countries: a review of published literature 1994-2007.
Centre for Health Policy, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. email@example.com
This article provides the first ever review of literature analysing the health policy processes of low and middle income countries (LMICs). Based on a systematic search of published literature using two leading international databases, the article maps the terrain of work published between 1994 and 2007, in terms of policy topics, lines of inquiry and geographical base, as well as critically evaluating its strengths and weaknesses. The overall objective of the review is to provide a platform for the further development of this field of work. From an initial set of several thousand articles, only 391 were identified as relevant to the focus of inquiry. Of these, 164 were selected for detailed review because they present empirical analyses of health policy change processes within LMIC settings. Examination of these articles clearly shows that LMIC health policy analysis is still in its infancy. There are only small numbers of such analyses, whilst the diversity of policy areas, topics and analytical issues that have been addressed across a large number of country settings results in a limited depth of coverage within this body of work. In addition, the majority of articles are largely descriptive in nature, limiting understanding of policy change processes within or across countries. Nonetheless, the broad features of experience that can be identified from these articles clearly confirm the importance of integrating concern for politics, process and power into the study of health policy. By generating understanding of the factors influencing the experience and results of policy change, such analysis can inform action to strengthen future policy development and implementation. This article, finally, outlines five key actions needed to strengthen the field of health policy analysis within LMICs, including capacity development and efforts to generate systematic and coherent bodies of work underpinned by both the intent to undertake rigorous analytical work and concern to support policy change.
Health Policy Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org
The case for undertaking policy analysis has been made by a number of scholars and practitioners. However, there has been much less attention given to how to do policy analysis, what research designs, theories or methods best inform policy analysis. This paper begins by looking at the health policy environment, and some of the challenges to researching this highly complex phenomenon. It focuses on research in middle and low income countries, drawing on some of the frameworks and theories, methodologies and designs that can be used in health policy analysis, giving examples from recent studies. The implications of case studies and of temporality in research design are explored. Attention is drawn to the roles of the policy researcher and the importance of reflexivity and researcher positionality in the research process. The final section explores ways of advancing the field of health policy analysis with recommendations on theory, methodology and researcher reflexivity.
Treatment-seeking behaviour, cost burdens and coping strategies among rural and urban households in Coastal Kenya: an equity analysis.
Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kilifi, Kenya. email@example.com
Ill-health can inflict costs on households directly through spending on treatment and indirectly through impacting on labour productivity. The financial burden can be high and, for poor households, contributes significantly to declining welfare. We investigated socio-economic inequities in self-reported illnesses, treatment-seeking behaviour, cost burdens and coping strategies in a rural and urban setting along the Kenyan coast. We conducted a survey of 294 rural and 576 urban households, 9 FGDs and 9 in-depth interviews in each setting. Key findings were significantly higher levels of reported chronic and acute conditions in the rural setting, differences in treatment-seeking patterns by socio-economic status (SES) and by setting, and regressive cost burdens in both areas. These data suggest the need for greater governmental and non-governmental efforts towards protecting the poor from catastrophic illness cost burdens. Promising health sector options are elimination of user fees, at least in targeted hardship areas, developing more flexible charging systems, and improving quality of care in all facilities. The data also strongly support the need for a multi-sectoral approach to protecting households. Potential interventions beyond the health sector include supporting the social networks that are key to household livelihood strategies and promoting micro-finance schemes that enable small amounts of credit to be accessed with minimal interest rates.
Centre for Health Policy, University of Witwatersrand, PO Box 1038, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa. firstname.lastname@example.org
Two relationships of particular importance to health care provision are those between patient and provider, and health worker and employer. This paper presents an analytical framework that establishes the key dimensions of trust within these relationships, and suggests how they may combine in influencing health system responsiveness. The paper then explores the relevance of the framework by using it to analyse case studies of primary care providers in South Africa. The analysis suggests that respectful treatment is the central demand of primary care service users, in terms of positive attitudes/behaviours, thoroughness, and technical competence, as well as institutions that support fair treatment. It is argued that such treatment is necessary for, and integral to, patient-provider trust. The findings also suggest that the notion of workplace trust (combining trust in colleagues, supervisor and employing organisation) has relevance to provider experiences of their workplaces, and so can provide important insights for strengthening management. Nonetheless, given the limitations of this preliminary analysis, further research is needed to develop the notion of workplace trust and to test what role it has, along with that of provider-community relations, in influencing health worker performance.
Centre for Health Policy, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. email@example.com
This paper explores the policy-making process in the 1990s in two countries, South Africa and Zambia, in relation to health care financing reforms. While much of the analysis of health reform programmes has looked at design issues, assuming that a technically sound design is the primary requirement of effective policy change, this paper explores the political and bureaucratic realities shaping the pattern of policy change and its impacts. Through a case study approach, it provides a picture of the policy environment and processes in the two countries, specifically considering the extent to which technical analysts and technical knowledge were able to shape policy change. The two countries' experiences indicate the strong influence of political factors and actors over which health care financing policies were implemented, and which not, as well as over the details of policy design. Moments of political transition in both countries provided political leaders, specifically Ministers of Health, with windows of opportunity in which to introduce new policies. However, these transitions, and the changes in administrative structures introduced with them, also created environments that constrained the processes of reform design and implementation and limited the equity and sustainability gains achieved by the policies. Technical analysts, working either inside or outside government, had varying and often limited influence. In part, this reflected the limits of their own capacity as well as weaknesses in the way they were used in policy development. In addition, the analysts were constrained by the fact that their preferred policies often received only weak political support. Focusing almost exclusively on designing policy reforms, these analysts gave little attention to generating adequate support for the policy options they proposed. Finally, the country experiences showed that front-line health workers, middle level managers and the public had important influences over policy implementation and its impacts. The limited attention given to communicating policy changes to, or consulting with, these actors only heightened the potential for reforms to result in unanticipated and unwanted impacts. The strength of the paper lies in its 'thick description' of the policy process in each country, an empirical case study approach to policy that is under-represented in the literature. While such an approach allows only a cautious drawing of general conclusions, it suggests a number of ways in which to strengthen the implementation of financing policies in each country.