Health and its pursuit are tightly interwoven into the social and economic fabric of all industrialized nations. Health plays a direct and important role not only in the physical and mental well-being of people but in nations' economies as well. The United States is expected to spend more than $2 trillion in pursuit of health in 2006, representing 16 percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP), and to spend about $3.6 trillion, or 18.7 percent of GDP, by 2014 (Heffler et al. 2005). Thus, it is not surprising that government at all levels is keenly interested in health and in how it is pursued. This book is about the intricate process through which government influences the pursuit of health that is public policymaking. Attention is focused primarily on the policymaking process at the federal level, although much of what is covered also applies to policymaking at the state and local levels.
In this chapter, the basic and underpinning definitions of health and health policy—and their relationship to each other—are discussed. In Chapter 2, the impact of policy on health and its pursuit is considered more fully. In Chapter 3, a model of the public policymaking process is outlined and described; this model is specifically applied to health policymaking. The various interconnected parts of the model are then covered in detail in subsequent chapters.
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