Health Policy-Making in the U.S.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is a stakeholder federal agency that provides medical and social services and promotes research in the fields of social services, medicine and public health. This is achieved through 11 agencies that manage more than 100 programs. Agencies include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Office of Children and Families (ACF). The U.S. Department of HHS contributes to adapting and delivering health policy, a complex process that incorporates many social, political, and economic factors. Therefore, the main purpose of the paper is to examine the complexity of the issues that decision-makers must consider.

The Overview of the Federal Agency

The Department of Health and Human Services was originally founded as a cabinet-level department in 1953 as the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW). In 1979, the Department of Law of the Organization of Education created a separate Department of Education. The remaining agencies were reorganized into the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on May 4, 1980. The Department of Health and Human Services addresses the concerns related to the health protection of the citizens and providing social services. To fulfill this mission, HHS has several operational units that help to gather necessary information. This includes eight agencies of the U.S. Public Health Service and three social services agencies, each offering various medical and social services. The Department of Health and Human Services is a federal department dedicated to promoting the health and well—being of U.S. citizens. In addition, HHS has an impact on health care policy and delivery by providing social services. It implements programs related to social services, civil rights and privacy in the healthcare sector.

The CDC is the primary U.S. health protection agency that conducts research and analysis to protect the public from health threats. The CDC focuses on science and technology to prevent disease, addresses the nation’s most serious health problems that lead to death and disability and promotes healthy and safe behavior, communities, and the environment. ACL focuses on the care and health of the elderly, people with disabilities, families and caregivers. The ACL manages many programs that provide health and wellness assistance, protect rights and prevent abuse, strengthen community networks, and fund research. The FDA also seeks to reduce the use of tobacco products by minors, as well as regulate all tobacco products.

Other operational divisions include the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registration (ATSDR), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Health Resources and Services. Administration (HRSA), Indian Health Service (IHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). HHS oversees more than 100 programs in its 11 operating divisions, which consist of social services, civil rights, and healthcare privacy programs, disaster preparedness programs and health-related research. Various social service programs are offered, aimed at low-income people, the disabled, military families and the elderly. HHS oversees health care rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA protects the medical information of patients and the health insurance of the unemployed and also establishes rules regarding health insurance.

One of the current initiatives that the agency puts an emphasis on is building partnerships between faith and community-based organization and government. That would help the U.S. Department of HHS to assist individuals and communities that are in need of health assistance. It is a health policy because it includes a plan and analysis of the situation. Building partnership is a part of the strategy that is influenced by the role of community organizations in the nation.

Health Policy Analysis and Decision-Making

Health policy analysts need to consider policy problems and health economics to make decisions. The term “policy analysis” refers to a broad set of methods and instruments used to examine the characteristics of existing policies, their historical development, and their effects. Although it is becoming more significant in academia, policy analysis is still not seen as a single, cohesive topic of study. The results of health policies or the impacts that the policy has on people are the primary concerns of policy analysis. Decisions on health policy are not always the outcome of a logical discussion and assessment of how a specific target should be achieved. When it comes to how much public health care is provided and who pays for it, the political context in which decisions are made is frequently quite important (Verguet & Jamison, 2018). Decisions about health policies are also influenced by value judgments, which are implicit in all societies but crucial to comprehend for implementation, such as the importance put on women’s health.

Every nation’s health policy reflects national beliefs and interests, as well as political, economic, and social constraints. Each branch of government, such as judicial, legislative, and executive, impacts the mission of the U.S. Department of HHS. Analysis of health policy is useful to the extent that it considers health policy in light of these national realities. Consequently, the first stage in policy analysis is to create a thorough profile of a particular country. Economics, being a structural factor, influences healthcare decision-making (Wilensky & Teitelbaum, 2019). Health issues often have a direct or indirect impact on the population’s health condition, which is why it is critical to track changes in all of the contextual elements (Vélez et al., 2020). An attempt to define a health issue inevitably results in a problem statement. An effective problem statement should only contain descriptions. It might be dangerous to utilize problem statements that either overtly or implicitly include a diagnosis of the problem’s root causes. A population’s vital statistics and health statistics are needed in order to develop a clearly defined health problem statement.

A critical first step is problem definition, and as policy analysis proceeds, the problem’s conceptual and empirical dimensions will become clearer. Therefore, it is crucial to repeatedly refer back to the problem statement throughout the policy analysis process to ensure that the problem will ultimately be successfully addressed (Wilensky & Teitelbaum, 2019). The policy’s connections to the surrounding circumstances are essential when it comes to options analysis. Even before any attempt at option appraisal, some options are frequently dismissed. For instance, if options for HIV/AIDS legislation are being evaluated, a sexually explicit public awareness campaign may not be taken into account in a particular nation. In other situations, if the policy is to be implemented, epidemiological, clinical, and economic elements of treatments need to be taken into account (Verguet & Jamison, 2018). The choices should be supported by science, draw on global experience, and take into account the nation’s ethnic diversity and experience.


In conclusion, it is worth mentioning the fact that analyzing health policies is a difficult task. Official declarations of policy intent contained in government health policy documents are not always implemented in a way that produces positive health outcomes. There are frequently no official policies to follow, or there may be policy pronouncements on paper but no policy measures to support their implementation. Given that there is a health issue that requires action, it is clear that the current policy is ineffective and that other options should be researched and analyzed in order to solve the issue. Regarding the contribution that policy analysis can make to reducing the cited issue, it is crucial to remain modest.


Vélez, C. M., Wilson, M. G., Lavis, J. N., Abelson, J., & Florez, I. D. (2020). A framework for explaining the role of values in health policy decision-making in Latin America: A critical interpretive synthesis. Health Research Policy and Systems, 18(1), 1-17.

Verguet, S., & Jamison, D. T. (2018). Health policy analysis: Applications of extended cost-effectiveness analysis methodology in disease control priorities. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank.

Wilensky, S. E., & Teitelbaum, J. B. (2019). Essentials of health policy and law. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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