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SOCL 213: Sociology of Medicine

What is Health Policy?

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. Source: World Health Organization

Health policy is often described as consisting of a "big P" and a "small p." "Big P" are formal laws and regulations enacted by elected officials. "Small p" are internal agency decisions or memorandum, organizational guidelines, or social norms guiding behavior. Source: Eyler, A. A., Chriqui, J. F., Moreland-Russell, S., & Brownson, R. C. (Eds.). (2016). Prevention, policy, and public health. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


There are many ways to locate policies, and how you find them will depend on the region/county/state you are researching.

I recommend using the following strategies:

  • Using the "site:" filter in an online search to search through .gov webpages or local government sites.
  • Searching for news about recent policy changes (often they will link you to the policy document)
  • Search for through scholarly literature (e.g., journal articles) to locate names of policies that you can then search for. Try using one of the databases below.