This paper analyzes the development of the study of the politics of health. In doing so it explores the connection between the changing conceptions of the politics of health and actual changes in the health systems of the western world.

Three stages are identified in the development of health care systems. These are labelled the eras of benign neglect, health insurance and government regulation. It is then noted that three basic approaches to the politics of health have been taken over the years. These are labelled the group, modified group and holistic approaches. The article then argues that these three approaches tend to reflect the basic assumption explicit and implicit in the three stages of the development of the actual health systems of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

After critically commenting upon the value of each of the approaches, the paper notes that very few political scientists have used anything other than a rather narrow group approach to analyze the politics of health and therefore have failed to explain the dynamism of the health care field. Then a few explanations for this unhappy state of affairs are ventured and the conclusion states a case for eclecticism in the study of the politics of health.

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