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. WHO

Since health is determined to a large extent by factors outside the health arena, an effective health policy must involve all relevant policy areas, in particular:

  • social and regional policy;
  • taxation;
  • environment;
  • education;
  • and research.

In Wales, health is a devolved power, meaning that the Welsh Government has the freedom from the rest of the United Kingdom to make decisions about, and develop, health policies and strategies, as well as to propose Welsh laws (‘Assembly Bills’) regarding health within Wales. Examples of recent Welsh health policy developments include the Public Health (Wales) Bill, Human Transplantation (Wales) Act, and in, 2011, the strategy for public health in Wales, Our Healthy Future

Health policy is not merely the end product of a legislative process. A variety of bodies and organisation can seek to influence policy development through the production of policy briefings, position statements and guidance. Public Health Network Cymru will seek to share relevant and timely policy publications from health organisations through the Resources Database.

Good health policies should be strongly influenced and shaped by the existing or emerging evidence base. Public Health Wales aims to bridge any gaps between policy and research through its Policy, Research and International Development directorate. Headed up by Prof. Mark Bellis, the directorate is at the heart of Public Health Wales’ ambition to improve health across Wales and internationally through the identification, dissemination and implementation of the most effective Public Health measures.               


Chief Medical Officer for Wales - Dr Frank Atherton

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In the UK, recent approaches to addressing health inequalities have followed the interactive model, where research knowledge is just one input into the decision-making process. Social pressures, political situation and experience are also contributors.
Nutbeam, D in Charles Guest, ed., Oxford Handbook of Public Health Practice, 3rd ed, Oxford Medical Publications (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

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