Local health policy development processes in the Netherlands: an expanded toolbox for health promotion

M.J.A. Hoeijmakers, E. De Leeuw, P. Kenis, N.K. de Vries

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Although much research has been done on the existence and formation of risk and issue based health policies, there is only little insight in health policy development processes in a broader context. This hampers intervention in these policy processes to adequately develop integrated and effective health policies. Legislation in the Netherlands requires municipalities to develop and implement local health policies. These policies are supposed to aim at the promotion of health across sectors and with a strong community involvement. Health policy development processes have been studied in four Dutch municipalities. For each case, we identified a range of stakeholders and monitored the change or stability of their characteristics over 3 years. In addition, for each case, three overlaying maps of networks were made addressing communication and collaboration actions within the defined set of stakeholders. We point out a number of barriers which impede integrated policy development at the local level: the importance given to local health policy, the medical approach to health development, the organizational self-interest rather than public health concern, the absence of policy entrepreneurial activity. Furthermore, this article advocates the use of complementary theoretical frameworks and the expansion of the methodological toolbox for health promotion. The value of stakeholder and network analysis in the health promotion domain, at this stage, is two-fold. First, mapping relevant actors, their positions and connections in networks provides us with insight into their capacity to participate and contribute to health policy development. Second, these new tools contribute to a further understanding of policy entrepreneurial roles to be taken up by health promotion professionals and health authorities in favour of the socio-environmental approach to health. Notwithstanding the value of this first step, more research is required into both the practical application as well as in the theoretical connections with, for example, Multiple Streams theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-121
JournalHealth Promotion International
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007


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