Government, politics and health policy: A quantitative analysis of 30 European countries.

Mackenbach, JP; McKee, M; (2015) Government, politics and health policy: A quantitative analysis of 30 European countries. Health policy (Amsterdam, Netherlands). ISSN 0168-8510 DOI:

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Public health policies are often dependent on political decision-making, but little is known of the impact of different forms of government on countries' health policies. In this exploratory study we studied the association between a wide range of process and outcome indicators of health policy and four groups of political factors (levels of democracy, e.g. voice and accountability; political representation, e.g. voter turnout; distribution of power, e.g. constraints on the executive; and quality of government, e.g. absence of corruption) in contemporary Europe. Data on 15 aspects of government and 18 indicators of health policy as well as on potential confounders were extracted from harmonized international data sources, covering 30 European countries and the years 1990-2010. In a first step, multivariate regression analysis was used to relate cumulative measures of government to indicators of health policy, and in a second step panel regression with country fixed effects was used to relate changes in selected measures of government to changes in indicators of health policy. In multivariate regression analyses, measures of quality of democracy and quality of government had many positive associations with process and outcome indicators of health policy, while measures of distribution of power and political representation had few and inconsistent associations. Associations for quality of democracy were robust against more extensive control for confounding variables, including tests in panel regressions with country fixed effects, but associations for quality of government were not. In this period in Europe, the predominant political influence on health policy has been the rise of levels of democracy in countries in the Central & Eastern part of the region. In contrast to other areas of public policy, health policy does not appear to be strongly influenced by institutional features of democracy determining the distribution of power, nor by aspects of political representation. The effect of quality of government on health policy warrants more study.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Health Services Research and Policy
PubMed ID: 26375240
Web of Science ID: 363345400003


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