Role of Professional association in policy making

         Medical association is professional organization or learned society developed to 

  1. promote and protect the interests of its physician members.
  2. promote high standards in medical education and practice, science, and ethics.

A prime example of a medical association is the influential American Medical Association (q.v.; AMA), founded in 1847. Oromia Physicians Association is also established in 2018 in line with the above two main issues.

Health policy is developed through a complicated interplay of governmental and private agencies and businesses, physician organizations, and societies as well as a host of other private ventures. The end result is rarely precisely what any individual or group may desire as the consequences of any action are never entirely predictable. There are many pathways to influence policy development within this system, and many of these are influenced by physicians as individuals and through organized medical societies.

For many years now, health policy experts have argued about the declining power of medical associations and that the public does not trust the medical professional. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the reality is more complex – associations may be less powerful and less trusted; yet at the same time, these groups are clearly major voices in certain health policy debates – within the profession and with the public. One challenge is that there is simply not enough research and reflection about these associations in the context of low- and middle-income countries. Associations are regularly highlighted in health policy and systems research (HPSR) as key policy actors, but are often portrayed as homogenous and one-dimensional, when in reality, they are numerous and take a variety of positions and stances. Health policy processes are increasingly crowded and contested spaces, and yet, medical associations continue to play a major role. workshops reiterated the need for more inter-disciplinary research that can contribute to a nuanced understanding of how power dynamics flow through different associations and shape the policy process, the politics of coalitions involving associations, the implications of a union/interest group approach to both organized medicine and the wider debates around national health reforms and universal health coverage.

Professional medical associations are considered key stakeholders in shaping and influencing health policy. Yet, there has been limited research and discussion on their role in the context of low- and middle-income countries.

National health policies, strategies, and plans are more likely to get implemented effectively if their development and negotiation is inclusive of all stakeholders in and beyond the health sector. This means engaging all actors, by means of a broad consultation, in meaningful policy dialogue to build consensus on the current situation and on the values, goals and overall policy directions that will guide health policy.

Stakeholders may include:

  • government — not only the Ministry of Health or Department of Health, but also Finance, Treasury, Education, etc
  • non-governmental organisations and not-for-profit sector
  • community groups and civil society organisations
  • business and the private sector
  • political parties
  • local government
  • health insurance groups and other health care funders
  • donors and aid agencies, including global health initiatives
  • UN agencies, including WHO
  • health workers ‘organisations & health care providers’ networks
  • patients and health service users.

Neglecting health-related research, education, and policy-making to professional associations alone can make acceptance and adoption of health interventions and recommendations—even those based on high quality evidence—difficult or even impossible. Engaging the public at large or members of a targeted stakeholder group around their values and opinions is crucial to understanding and creating the right conditions for evidence-based, health-related changes to take root and spread.

When we come to our country, Ethiopia, professional associations including Oromia physicians Associations can contribute in the process of health policy making starting from problem identification to policy implementation. Including all stakeholders in policy making process is also important in minimizing the implementation gap.

Author: Guta Gurmessa Amenu (MD, MPH), Ethiopian Airline

Leave a Comment