Translating policy into practice: A case study in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease

Lindsay Prior, Joanne Wilson, Michael Donnelly, Andrew W. Murphy, Susan M. Smith, Mary Byrne, Molly Byrne, Margaret E. Cupples

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: This paper focuses on the relationships between health ‘policy’ as it is embodied in official documentation, and health ‘practice’ as reported and reflected on in the talk of policy makers, health professionals and patients. The specific context for the study involves a comparison of policies relating to the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD) in the two jurisdictions of Ireland – involving as they do a predominantly state funded (National Health Service) system in the north and a mixed healthcare economy in the south. The key question is to determine how the rhetoric of health policy as contained in policy documents connects to, and gets translated into practice and action.

Methods: The data sources for the study include relevant healthcare policy documents (N=5) and progress reports (N=6) in the two Irish jurisdictions, and semi-structured interviews with a range of policy-makers (N=28), practice nurses (14), general practitioners (12) and patients (13) to explore their awareness of the documents’ contents and how they saw the impact of ‘policy’ on primary care practice.

Results: The findings suggest that although strategic policy documents can be useful for highlighting and channelling attention to health issues that require concerted action, they have little impact on what either professionals or lay people do.

Conclusion: To influence the latter and to encourage a systematic approach to the delivery of health care it seems likely that contractual arrangements – specifying tasks to be undertaken and methods for monitoring and reporting on activity - are required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-301
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number2
Early online date12 Dec 2011
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • coronary heart disease
  • policy discourse
  • policy implementation
  • translational research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions(all)


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