Politics, Policy, Public Health and Health Technology




Health technologies (drugs, devices, diagnostics, information and communication systems, surgical interventions, etc.) have complex roles in health systems with the potential to improve health outcomes and quality of life and to support change in service delivery for more effective, sustainable and person-centred care. But though real, this potential is often not realized due to the partial alignment between R&D interests and public health needs, as well as cost or access issues, evidence limitations, the risk that technologies will prove ineffective or harmful and challenges of misuse, overuse or underuse. Adding to these challenges for health policy and health systems are the broader roles of technologies within political economies and public policy. Governments play significant roles in the development of health technologies, sometimes advancing policies that are in conflict with the aims of population health or health equity, but which may be seen to align with the aims of science, industry or trade policy. As well, there is increased policy attention to the role of health systems as generators of both “health” and “wealth” with the latter aim served by health system support for research and development as well as the adoption and use of novel products and services. Whether and how this “double promise” can be realized, and whose health and wealth will be enhanced, remains politically contentious. The aim of this course is to explore these complex contexts. Specifically, we look at the developmental and regulatory institutions through which public policy seeks to shape health technology development, adoption and dissemination and we consider the health and innovation systems within which these institutions operate. As well, we consider the underlying interests and ideas that shape the operation and effect of these institutions and systems. Throughout, we consider the implications of these policies, systems, institutions, interests and ideas for the meaning of population health and its equitable distribution (i.e. health equity).


  • To understand the role of health technologies within health systems and political economies
  • To learn about institutions in Canada and internationally that have particular relevance to the development and dissemination of health technologies
  • To support critical and reflective thinking and writing about key course concepts: health technologies, policies, systems, institutions, ideas, interests, population health and health equity


Fiona Miller

Fiona A. Miller

Accepting Students

HSR – Health Policy Emphasis Lead

Joel Lexchin