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Health Sector: Health Policy


It is impractical for any player in the health sector to imagine that a working and substantive health policy can only be drawn by technocrats in the health sector without the input of the political class as many health policies are political declarations made in public especially in developing countries. These public declarations are quite often meant by public office holders to word their political cronies. These declarations are not normally supported by scientific data (Sommer, 2001). Because of the role politics play in policy formulation, it has become absolutely difficult to come up with legislation that can curb the consumption of substances like tobacco and lead. This is a principal threat to public health. It would however be unfair to say that most policy issues are not supported by adequate data. President Clinton’s decision not to fund the needle exchange program was indeed founded on available data. Coming up with a working health policy should involve the collection of data and interpretation of this collected data.

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Before the policy is drawn in totality, a scientific consensus must be found. It is difficult for epidemiologists to come to a consensus because of underlying skepticism and the nature of evidence adduced, however, effort should be made towards its realization because it is an essential stage in health policy formulation. Without this, the acceptability of this health policy can just be but a mirage away. The input of an epidemiologist at this stage is very pertinent. It is a mountain task to translate science to a health policy because the priority of the society, issues related to culture, and politics have to be factored in. this makes politics an integral part of health policy formulation. That epidemiologists should take the core mandate in health policy formulation is not in doubt. However, the ambiguity that scientific researches portray, has thrown health policy formulation into disarray. This has made the public to be so indecisive as pertaining what they ought to believe in and what they ought not to believe in. it is up to epidemiologists to come up with meticulously crafted evidence and credible conclusions to redeem their image and win the trust of the public and create a departure from the past where industries dealing in substances under investigation funded such researches and ultimately influenced the findings of the studies.

Critique of the research methods used

For an epidemiologist to impact health policy he or she has to come up with an appropriate study design and conduct. This gives them an edge when it comes to formulations and discussions. An epidemiologist in doing this duty should be guided by professional ethics. However, due to financial constraints and politics of the day, the use of definitive study designs is normally limited. This also negatively impacts the collection of impeccable data. Epidemiologists have to be insightful and imaginative rather than just relying on the quality or quantity of data collected. This is imperative in coming up with complementary evidence. They have to seek the input of their colleagues from other disciplines. The data used in policy formulation should be in a position to speak for itself and corroborate (Sommer et al., 1980). It is the sole responsibility of an epidemiologist to extrapolate the available data and quantify its impact. In this respect, it is absolutely important that population size to which conclusion will be made on. The absolute and attributable risks have to be quantified. Extrapolation has got its inherent shortcomings that have to be brought into perspective before it is adopted in totality. The collateral impact of an intervention that is to be adopted has to be quantified by an epidemiologist.

Reference List

Sommer, A. (2001). How public health policy is created: scientific process and political Reality. American Journal of Epidemiology, 154(12), S4-S6.

Sommer A, Muhilal, Tarwotjo I, (1980). Oral versus intramuscular vitamin A in the Treatment of xerophthalmia. Lancet, 1, 557–559.

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