The Policy Impact of Ideas

The Policy Impact of Ideas: Science, Social Justice and Public Health Governance
Speaker: Patrick Fafard # University of Ottawa
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Date and Time
24th Apr 2013 15:00 - 24th Apr 2013 16:30
Seminar Room 4, Chrystal Macmillan Building

How ideas influence policy is a subject of continuing research and debate.  In order to explain policy change many have argued that ideational processes help to construct policy problems; shape the assumptions that affect the content of reform; and become, at times, discursive weapons.  However there are also powerful institutional enablers and constraints on the policy impact of ideas.  In this paper, I propose to examine the role of the three dominant ideas in public health: “health” is special; science is essential; and, social justice is paramount.  

The first part of the paper outlines a framework for thinking about ideas and policy change.  The next three sections explore in turn how particular conceptions of “health”; “science”; and “social justice” define the public health account of policy making.  The final section briefly applies the conceptual argument to two flash points in contemporary public health: the controversy surrounding the INSITE safe injection facility in Vancouver and, more broadly, calls for action on socioeconomic inequality in the name of health.  In both cases the goal is to explore the impact of institutional arrangements on the policy impact of the core ideas animating public health.