This article provides the first ever review of literature analysing the health policy processes of low and middle income countries (LMICs). Based on a systematic search of published literature using two leading international databases, the article maps the terrain of work published between 1994 and 2007, in terms of policy topics, lines of inquiry and geographical base, as well as critically evaluating its strengths and weaknesses. The overall objective of the review is to provide a platform for the further development of this field of work.
From an initial set of several thousand articles, only 391 were identified as relevant to the focus of inquiry. Of these, 164 were selected for detailed review because they present empirical analyses of health policy change processes within LMIC settings. Examination of these articles clearly shows that LMIC health policy analysis is still in its infancy. There are only small numbers of such analyses, whilst the diversity of policy areas, topics and analytical issues that have been addressed across a large number of country settings results in a limited depth of coverage within this body of work. In addition, the majority of articles are largely descriptive in nature, limiting understanding of policy change processes within or across countries. Nonetheless, the broad features of experience that can be identified from these articles clearly confirm the importance of integrating concern for politics, process and power into the study of health policy. By generating understanding of the factors influencing the experience and results of policy change, such analysis can inform action to strengthen future policy development and implementation. This article, finally, outlines five key actions needed to strengthen the field of health policy analysis within LMICs, including capacity development and efforts to generate systematic and coherent bodies of work underpinned by both the intent to undertake rigorous analytical work and concern to support policy change.
Health Policy and Planning (2008) 23 (5) 294-307 [doi:10.1093/heapol/czn019]