Development of health policy goals necessitates a choice among normative premises—an accommodation of conflicting values. Any debate that does not identify underlying assumptions or link policy prescriptions to a theoretical perspective is destined to degenerate into uncommunicative and unproductive rhetorical posturing. A sensible approach toward formulating national health policy requires that competing values be identified and discussed explicitly. This article will examine the effect that selection of different theoretical perspectives can have on the identification of problems and on the formulation of prescriptive policies in the health field. It will also focus on the different values that are promoted by different policy perspectives and consider alternative modes for implementing value choices.

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