Analysis of maternal and child health policies in Malawi: The methodological perspective
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© 2015, Malawi Medical Journal. All rights reserved. The question of why most health policies do not achieve their intended results continues to receive a considerable attention in the literature. This is in the light of the recognized gap between policy as intent and policy as practice, which calls for substantial research work to understand the factors that improve policy implementation. Although there is substantial work that explains the reasons why policies achieve or fail to achieve their intended outcomes, there are limited case studies that illustrate how to analyze policies from the methodological perspective. In this article, we report and discuss how a mixed qualitative research method was applied for analyzing maternal and child health policies in Malawi. For the purposes of this article, we do not report research findings; instead we focus our dicussion on the methodology of the study and draw lessons for policy analysis research work. We base our disusssion on our experiences from a study in which we analyzed maternal and child health policies in Malawi over the period from 1964 to 2008. Noting the multifaceted nature of maternal and child health policies, we adopted a mixed qualitative research method, whereby a number of data collection methods were employed. This approach allowed for the capturing of different perspectives of maternal and child health policies in Malawi and for strengthening of the weaknesses of each method, especially in terms of data validity. This research suggested that the multidimensional nature of maternal and child health policies, like other health policies, calls for a combination of research designs as well as a variety of methods of data collection and analysis. In addition, we suggest that, as an emerging research field, health policy analysis will benefit more from case study designs because they provide rich experiences in the actual policy context.
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