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Health Policy: Getting Started

Welcome to the Health Policy Research Guide!

What is public health policy?

". . . Policy can be defined as rules, procedures, principles, or activities enacted by organizations with the vested authority to implement them. Implicit in this definition is the idea that policies are more than laws enacted by governments. Combined, health policy can then be defined as rules, procedures, principles, or activities that are enacted by organizations and have the potential to shape physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Implicit in this definition is the idea that health policy includes policies that could influence health both intentionally and unintentionally." (Niederdeppe, J. (2014). Health policy. In T. L. Thompson (Ed.), Encyclopedia of health communication (Vol. 3, pp. 628-633). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781483346427.n242)

"The term health policy is also used in a number of other contexts, usually in dealing with specific healthcare issues, such as aging, various specific diseases, disparities in access, systems of healthcare delivery, economics of health care, governmental programs (such as Medicare and Medicaid), mental health, prescription drugs, quality of care, tobacco and alcohol consumption, and health research." (Newton, D. E. (2013). Health policy. In Gale (Ed.), The Gale encyclopedia of public health. Farmington, MI: Gale.)

"Health policy refers to decisions, plans, and actions that are undertaken to achieve specific health care goals within a society. An explicit health policy can achieve several things: it defines a vision for the future which in turn helps to establish targets and points of reference for the short and medium term. It outlines priorities and the expected roles of different groups; and it builds consensus and informs people." (World Health Organization. (n.d.). Health topics. Retrieved from

Guide Content By

Ashlea Green
School of Information Sciences
College of Communication and Information
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Content in this guide by Ashlea Green is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License