Whole-of-society approach for public health policymaking: a case study of polycentric governance from Quebec, Canada
In adopting a whole-of-society (WoS) approach that engages multiple stakeholders in public health policies across contexts, the authors propose that effective governance presents a challenge. The purpose of this paper is to highlight a case for how polycentric governance underlying the WoS approach is already functioning, while outlining an agenda to enable adaptive learning for improving such governance processes. Drawing upon a case study from Quebec, Canada, we employ empirically developed concepts from extensive, decades-long work of the 2009 Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom in the governance of policy in nonhealth domains to analyze early efforts at polycentric governance in policies around overnutrition, highlighting interactions between international, domestic, state and nonstate actors and processes. Using information from primary and secondary sources, we analyze the emergence of the broader policy context of Quebec's public health system in the 20th century. We present a microsituational analysis of the WoS approach for Quebec's 21st century policies on healthy lifestyles, emphasizing the role of governance at the community level. We argue for rethinking prescriptive policy analysis of the 20th century, proposing an agenda for diagnostic policy analysis, which explicates the multiple sets of actors and interacting variables shaping polycentric governance for operationalizing the WoS approach to policymaking in specific contexts.
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