Structural integration and performance of inter-sectoral public health-related policy networks: An analysis across policy phases

D. T. J. M. Peters, J. Raab, K. M. Greaux, K. Stronks, J. Harting*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Inter-sectoral policy networks may be effective in addressing environmental determinants of health with interventions. However, contradictory results are reported on relations between structural network characteristics (i.e., composition and integration) and network performance, such as addressing environmental determinants of health. This study examines these relations in different phases of the policy process.

Methods: A multiple-case study was performed on four public health-related policy networks. Using a snowball method among network actors, overall and sub-networks per policy phase were identified and the policy sector of each actor was assigned. To operationalise the outcome variable, interventions were classified by the proportion of environmental determinants they addressed.

Results: In the overall networks, no relation was found between structural network characteristics and network performance. In most effective cases, the policy development sub-networks were characterised by integration with less interrelations between actors (low cohesion), more equally distributed distances between the actors (low closeness centralisation), and horizontal integration in inter-sectoral cliques. The most effective case had non-public health central actors with less connections in all sub-networks.

Conclusion: The results suggest that, to address environmental determinants of health, sub-networks should be inter-sectorally composed in the policy development rather than in the intervention development and implementation phases, and that policy development actors should have the opportunity to connect with other actors, without strong direction from a central actor. (C) 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1296-1302
Number of pages7
JournalHealth Policy
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Public health-related policy networks
  • Inter-sectoral policy networks
  • Network integration
  • Environmental determinants of health
  • Network performance
  • Social network analysis

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