What Is Health Policy?

View all blog posts under Master of Health Administration

To ensure that patients receive safe and standardized health care, public organizations create health policies for medical institutions. But this is only a simplistic answer to the question, “what is health policy?” Health policy governs a broad spectrum of issues, including health care, public health, and applications of medical services. This makes the process of creating and implementing health policy quite complex. Therefore, some health professionals choose to pursue a Master of Health Administration (MHA) to learn more about the process of formulating and implementing health policies.

Who Creates Health Policy?

At the government level, health policy formulation typically involves the participation of members of Congress, federal task forces, advisory entities, and professional and trade associations. Although medical professionals are not the only people who provide input for the policymaking process, the most effective health policies typically leverage the ideas and opinions of experienced health care administrators. Policymakers also reach out to voters, communities, and consumer groups.

What Is Health Policy Used For?

What is health policy? This question evolves with each legislative year. To understand the answer, it may help to learn more about recent large-scale policies that have been implemented in the United States:

● Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the 2010 law that is best known as Obamacare. This health policy was designed to provide more U.S. citizens with access to affordable health insurance and make health care available at a lower cost. It took five years to completely implement Obamacare, but now that it is in effect, the number of American citizens with health insurance has nearly doubled since 2010.
● National Public Health Improvement Initiative (NPHII). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the NPHII aimed to improve the quality of health departments across the U.S. For five years, this policy supplemented categorical public health funding, which is money used to support programs that focus on specific health issues or segments of the population. It offered additional resources to health care organizations that did not have access to categorical funding.
● National Prevention Strategy. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, this policy was designed to improve the health of the population by moving focus away from sickness and disease. Instead, this policy aims to bring attention to long-term wellness across the nation by offering preventive health care services to communities in an effort to eliminate health disparities.
● Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. This piece of health policy helps promote the adoption of cutting-edge health information technology. It offers incentives to health organizations for using electronic health record systems. In doing so, these organizations are helping build a more advanced health care information infrastructure that can be used to improve patient care.

5 Steps Health Care Administrators Use to Validate Health Policy

Between writing a health policy and implementing it, government public health officials must approve it. The health policy classes featured in many Master of Health Administration programs can teach students how to validate proposed health policies using a step-by-step method, such as the one that public health lawyer Lawrence O. Gostin suggests:

● Examine the public health interest. During this stage, policymakers should identify whether a proposed policy will actually achieve a significant health objective. They can do so by clearly articulating the purposes of the proposed policy, thereby helping communities understand why it is being proposed.
● Examine the overall effectiveness of the policy. Policymakers ask themselves whether a policy will be effective in achieving its targeted health objective. This requires collecting and analyzing scientific data to predict a policy’s potential outcome.
● Evaluate whether the policy is well-targeted. To prevent creating an over- or under-inclusive policy, policymakers must ensure that a policy has a specific target. This can help keep people who are not at risk of the targeted health threat from being adversely affected by an overly broad health policy.
● Identify the human rights burdens. This stage pertains to the ethics of health policy. Policymakers must determine whether a proposed policy will be invasive or infringe on the rights of any person.
● Examine whether the policy is the least restrictive alternative. Once a policy has made it through the previous barriers, policymakers should evaluate it thoroughly and decide whether the health objective could be reached through a less restrictive measure. This ensures that multiple solutions are considered before choosing a policy to implement.

Health policy plays a vital role in society. Without it, medical institutions would not be able to secure the funds they require to provide quality health services. Health policy classes can help students build the foundation of knowledge they will need to excel at health policy formulation and administration.

Learn More

Health care administrators will be in demand in our growing economy in the years to come. Overseeing large health care organizations means that administrators must be able to adapt along with pressing and critical health trends. An advanced degree can help students develop the skills they will need to grow in this profession. Visit us online to learn more about the online MHA program at Regis College.

Recommended Reading

8 Important Regulations in United States Health Care
4 Challenges Facing the Health Care Industry
3 Things to Know About National Patient Safety Goals


World Health Organization
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health Initiatives
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legislation, Regulation, and Policies
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine