Health Policy and Health Management

Health Policy and Management is the term used by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH), though it is sometimes used interchangeably with such terms as healthcare management, health administration, or health care policy.

This is the area of public health that perhaps most directly relates to the institutional and governmental levels of society.

What is Health Policy?

Health policy refers to the specific plans, policies, and actions in place to maintain the health of a population. This includes the laws and regulations enforced by the federal and state Departments of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control. Public health professionals who work in health policy deal with laws regulating the cost, accessibility, and coverage offered by healthcare, as well as the policies concerning health care providers and their treatment of patients. Drug laws, reproductive rights and birth control laws, STD testing and vaccinations, health education, smoking laws, and even the legal drinking age are all related to health policy. Health policy professionals also work in non-government organizations such as pharmaceutical companies and insurance providers.

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What is Health Management?

Health management, or health administration, is concerned with the governance and operation of health care facilities. Hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, retirement homes, mental health facilities, and other places require strict regulation by people who are both familiar with the particular healthcare needs of their clients as well as the policies that must be upheld to maintain clients’ health. This is the perfect example of a multidisciplinary facet of public health, and public health professionals with a background in management are equipped to ensure the successful operation of these facilities.

ASPH defines Health Policy and Management as “a multidisciplinary field of inquiry and practice concerned with the delivery, quality and costs of health care for individuals and populations. This definition assumes both a managerial and a policy concern with the structure, process and outcomes of health services including the costs, financing, organization, outcomes and accessibility of care.” Core competencies encapsulated by this discipline specify that upon graduation from an MPH degree program, students should be able to:

  • “Identify the main components and issues of the organization, financing and delivery of health services and public health systems in the US.”
  • “Describe the legal and ethical bases for public health and health services.”
  • “Explain methods of ensuring community health safety and preparedness.”
  • “Discuss the policy process for improving the health status of populations.”
  • “Apply the principles of program planning, development, budgeting, management and evaluation in organizational and community initiatives.”
  • “Apply principles of strategic planning and marketing to public health.”
  • “Apply quality and performance improvement concepts to address organizational performance issues.”
  • “Apply “systems thinking” for resolving organizational problems.”
  • “Communicate health policy and management issues using appropriate channels and technologies.”
  • “Demonstrate leadership skills for building partnerships.”

As health care reform and health laws continue to be a subject of much debate, jobs in the Health Policy and Management sector continue to grow and diversify. Laws and policies regulating public health affect almost every aspect of a population, and there are numerous capacities in which an MPH student with a background in Health Policy and Management can work. At both the federal and the state levels, you can work in government: at departments of health, departments of sanitation, and any other branch that deals with public health in some way.

You can work as a director at a health care facility, or in an insurance company. Policy analysts and researchers are needed in the nonprofit sector as well, for lobbying groups or small organizations like Planned Parenthood. While a concentration in this competency prepares you for a plethora of career paths, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook says that the rate of employment for general medical and health services managers is expected to grow by 22% between 2010 and 2020. For more specific career information, visit our Public Health Jobs page!