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Health politics or politics of health is an interdisciplinary field of study concerned with the analysis of political power over the health status of individuals.
It critiques public health for professionalizing health and healthcare systems to an extent that it removes it from public engagement, depoliticizing it in the process. This then transfers power away from the public body and into the medical profession and industry such that they can 'determine what health is and therefore, how political it is (or, more usually, is not)'. Combining political science to the study of public health, health politics aims to understand the unique interplay of politics within this policy domain to locate the politics of health.
"Among professionals in public health, the political system is commonly viewed as a subway's third rail: avoid touching it, lest you get burned. Yet it is this third rail that provides power to the train, and achieving public health goals depends on a sustained, constructive engagement between public health and political systems". Here, public health's problems and issues are explicitly political as the world's health bodies and organizations are supported by national governments - making their solutions equally as political as well. "If public health is the field that diagnoses and strives to cure social ills, then understanding political causes and cures for health problems should be an intrinsic part of the field".
Health politics is a joint discipline between public health and politics although, like many other interdisciplinary fields such as sociology, phenomenology or public policy, often incorporates approaches and methodologies of other related fields of study such as intersectionality. It sits to realize the political nature of health, healthcare, and the wider public health and medical contexts that sit within it.
A bibliometric search for 'politics of health' on PubMed found the earliest entry to be Schmidt's 1977 article "National Blood Policy, 1977: a study in the politics of health" that was set within the United States.
Foucault, through his work in biopolitics, offers insight into health politics through his essay (English translation by Lynch, 2014) "The politics of health in the eighteenth century".
Comparative health politics takes influence from comparative politics, a major sub-field of politics. It focuses on the interactions of health politics within a country or comparing the internal interactions countries, as opposed to international health politics.
LGBT or gender and sexual minorities (GSMs)[a], through a complex history and ongoing discriminations, have a distinct sub-field within health politics. From the stonewall riots to the politics involved around HIV, GSMs' health status has been deeply influenced by the politics of any given time and geopolitical location.