Exploring policy decision making

Researchers at the School, including Susannah Mayhew, Lucy Gilson, Johanna Hanefeld, Manuela Colombini and Ben Hawkins, has sought to empirically test theories of policy decision making, many of which were developed in high-income settings, to better understand the influences and nuances of policy decision making in low and middle income settings.


GRIP-Health is a collaborative research project which focuses on the use of evidence in policy. It seeks to improve the practice of evidence informed health policy through the application of political, institutional and sociological analysis to explore the politicisation of health policy issues; and the institutional structures through which evidence is incorporated into the policy- making process. The project, involving Justin Parkhurst, Ben Hawkins, Elisa Vecchione, Stefanie Ettelt and others, compares the use of evidence in the UK, Germany, Ghana, Ethiopia, Cambodia and Colombia. Examples are the use of scientific evidence in legal court rulings relating to access to health care in Germany and in health policy evaluation in health in Ghana.


Within the IDEAS project, policy analysis of scaling-up of donor-funded maternal and newborn health programmes, led by Neil Spicer, has sought to develop an understanding of policy decision making surrounding government adoption of these externally funded interventions including policy actors’ power and the use of evidence in decision making, together with health systems factors influencing their implementation at scale. A linked policy analysis as part of the IDEAS project in India focused on strengthening evidence-informed district level decision making in Uttar Pradesh, including understanding the institutions, motivations and attitudes that promote and undermine data sharing between the private and public sectors.

Ben Hawkins’ work on the influence of the alcohol industry on health policy has shown that alcohol industry actors exercise significant long-term influence over policy to support their underlying economic interests. Despite this, effective public health policies are possible where there is strong political commitment and an effective NGO community able to promote public health interests.


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