T17aP14 - Understanding Population Health Policies and their Impacts: Comparative Perspectives

Topic : Sectorial Policy - Health

Panel Chair : John Hoornbeek - jhoornbe@kent.edu

Panel Second Chair : Patrik Marier - patrik.marier@concordia.ca

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

Across the globe, nations and the sub-national jurisdictions are facing growing challenges in fostering the health and well-being of their populations.  Medical advances yield both improved health care opportunities and upward pressures on health costs.  The transformation of an increasing number of human conditions into treatable diseases (Conrad, 2008) has also contributed to these rising costs. Resource limitations and several decades of decentralizing new public management reforms yield challenges for government efforts to address population health problems and concerns.


There have been multiple efforts to study health policies and outcomes from cross-national perspectives, and they have often focused on healthcare policies and efforts to reform them (Miaoni and Marmor, 2015; Schoen et al, 2010; Reid, 2009). While these studies contribute to our understanding of how nations manage illness, they are arguably focused disproportionately on treating illnesses that have already developed, rather than preventing disease and enhancing the long term health and well-being of populations. This is notable, for example, in social services and in interventions with older adults where biomedical interventions are frequently encouraged and privileged over social ones (Estes and Binney, 1989; Binney, Estes and Ingram, 1990; Kaufman, Shim and Russ, 2004).


This panel seeks to instigate additional comparative research and analysis on the long term health and well-being of populations and the policies that affect it. The focus is on ways in which governments seek to improve the health and well-being of their populations, as well as on the policy impacts and outcomes that flow from these efforts.  While healthcare policy reform efforts are included in this focus, the hope and intent is that the papers contributed to this panel will focus as much or more on preventively-oriented health and social policies an as on healthcare. In this context, we draw attention to policies relating to  the “public health system” (Institute of Medicine, 2003), a phrase which generally refers to multi-organizational efforts that seek to enhance the health status and well-being of broad groups of people and populations.


Within this “public health system” lie efforts in a host of different specific policy areas.  These include clinically oriented policies and services providing for vaccinations and immunizations, as well as policies targeted toward specific populations (low income persons, women, older adults, etc.). Behavioral health policies are also included, as they seek to enable and encourage individuals and populations to make behavioral choices that enhance long term health and well-being (quit smoking, safe sex, good nutrition, etc.). Human service and income redistribution policies may also seek to pursue broader public health and well-being related goals, as they seek to address underlying social conditions of health and well-being. Additionally, environmental health policies seek to protect ecosystems and reduce health threats associated with environmental degradation, poor sanitation, and environmental pollutants. Taken together, policies in these and other areas comprise national and sub-national “public health systems” that may be characterized by variable levels of effectiveness and success in enhancing the health and well-being of the populations they serve.

Call for papers

Papers suitable for this panel should be comparative in nature, and should focus on ways in which policies of national and/or sub-national jurisdictions relate to the health and well-being of the populations they serve. We also welcome papers comparing different types of policies. Papers may focus on the ways in which public health policies are developed, organized, and/or administered to populations and/or sub-populations. Comparative analyses of public health policy-making structures and processes, as well as their impacts on the health of populations and sub-populations, are also encouraged.


The program and policy areas within the scope of this solicitation are multiple, and they include a variety of health, environmental, and social programs designed to enhance population health. Areas of focus might include behavioral health programs relating to risky behaviors such as substance use and abuse, nutrition and obesity, and control of weapons and firearms, to name just a few.  In the environmental health arena, analyses may relate to water and sanitation, air quality, and other environmental risks that may affect the health and well-being of populations and sub-populations. Human service programs designed to address the social dimensions of health and well-being, such as social service programs which enhance access to health services, enable illness prevention, and/or improve long term life prospects are also welcomed.  In addition, studies focusing in comparative fashion on government interventions and the health of particular sub-populations, such as older adults, children, women, minorities and those with low incomes are also encouraged.


Collectively, an underlying theme of the papers presented in this panel is envisioned to be the varying ways in which public policies relating to population health and well-being are developed, organized, and administered across societies and jurisdictions, and the impacts of these public policies on the populations they serve.        

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