Public Policy Frameworks for Improving Population Health

Authors

  • ALVIN R. TARLOV

    Corresponding author
    1. The Health Institute, New England Medical Center, Harvard School of Public Health, Tufts University School of Medicine, USA
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    • a

      Current address: Alvin R. Tarlov, M.D., James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, 6100 Main St., Houston, TX 77005-1892. 713-527-4063 (voice).

    • b

      This manuscript is a slightly modified version of Chapter 17 by Tarlov and St. Peter in Society and Population Health; A Reader. Volume II: A State Perspective. Alvin R. Tarlov & Robert F. St. Peter, Eds. 1999. The New Press, New York.


address for correspondence: Alvin R. Tarlov, M.D., James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, 6100 Main St., Houston, TX 77005-1892. 713-527-4063 (voice).

Abstract

Abstract: Four conceptual frameworks provide bases for constructing comprehensive public policy strategies for improving population health within wealthy (OECD) nations. (1) Determinants of population health. There are five broad categories: genes and biology, medical care, health behaviors, the ecology of all living things, and social/societal characteristics. (2) Complex systems: Linear effects models and multiple independent effects models fail to yield results that explain satisfactorily the dynamics of population health production. A different method (complex systems modeling) is needed to select the most effective interventions to improve population health. (3) An intervention framework for population health improvement. A two-by-five grid seems useful. Most intervention strategies are either ameliorative or fundamentally corrective. The other dimension of the grid captures five general categories of interventions: child development, community development, adult self-actualization, socioeconomic well-being, and modulated hierarchical structuring. (4) Public policy development process: the process has two phases. The initial phase, in which public consensus builds and an authorizing environment evolves, progresses from values and culture to identification of the problem, knowledge development from research and experience, the unfolding of public awareness, and the setting of a national agenda. The later phase, taking policy action, begins with political engagement and progresses to interest group activation, public policy deliberation and adoption, and ultimately regulation and revision. These frameworks will be applied to help understand the 39 recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health, the Sir Donald Acheson Report from the United Kingdom, which is the most ambitious attempt to date to develop a comprehensive plan to improve population health.

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