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Durham Research Online
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Political cultures, health systems and health policy.

Atkinson, S. J. (2002) 'Political cultures, health systems and health policy.', Social science & medicine., 55 (1). pp. 113-124.


Policies for restructuring national health systems in low- and middle-income countries tend to follow similar packages of prescriptions along the lines of those discussed in the World Development Report of 1993. An ubiquitous reform measure is that of decentralisation. Research on decentralised health care in Northeast Brazil demonstrates the critical role played by informal aspects of health system management and the political cultures of the wider context on the implementation of policy and the performance of local health systems. Discussion of incorporating these results into policy making highlights a number of points. Health systems research has failed to take seriously the role of the cultural for various reasons, particularly because of the challenge it makes to our own fundamental values and because of the difficulties of including it into approaches based on rational systems models. At the same time, health system researchers cannot easily draw upon and operationalise more complex and sophisticated explorations of the nature of the cultural domain. Nonetheless, without a concerted effort to engage with this literature, to bridge the gap to the applied policy world and tackle the challenge of incorporating considerations of political culture into policy making, health system management through decentralisation is likely to increase inequalities between local districts rather than the opposite.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Political culture, Health systems, Decentralisation, Brazil.
Full text:Full text not available from this repository.
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Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:No date available
Date of first online publication:July 2002
Date first made open access:No date available

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