Medical professionals influence health policymaking but the power they exercise is not well understood in low- and middle-income countries. We explore medical power in national health policymaking for child survival in Niger (late 1990s–2012) and emergency medicine specialisation in India (early 1990s–2015). Both case studies used document review, in-depth interviews and non-participant observation; combined analysis traced policy processes and established theoretical categories around power to build a conceptual framework of medical power in health policymaking. Medical doctors, mainly specialists, utilised their power to shape policy differently in each case. In Niger, a small, connected group of paediatricians pursued a policy of task-shifting after a powerful non-medical actor, the country’s president, shifted the debate by enacting broad health systems improvements. In India, a more fragmented group of specialists prioritised tertiary-level healthcare policies likely to benefit only a small subset of the population. Compared to high-income settings, medical power in these cases was channelled and expressed with greater variability in the profession’s ability to organise and influence policymaking. Taken together, both cases provide evidence that a concentration of medical power in health policymaking can result in the medicalisation of public health issues.
- health policy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health