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Soc Sci Med. 2003 Jul;57(1):179-88.

The politics of 'branding' in policy transfer: the case of DOTS for tuberculosis control.

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  • 1International Center for Research on Women, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 302, Washington, DC 20036, USA. <>


How and why policies are transferred between countries has attracted considerable interest from scholars of public policy over the last decade. This paper, based on a larger study, sets out to explore the processes involved in policy transfer between international and national levels. These processes are illustrated by looking at a particular public health policy--DOTS for the control and treatment of tuberculosis. The paper demonstrates how, after a long period of neglect, resources were mobilised to put tuberculosis back on international and national public policy agendas, and then how the policy was 'branded' and marketed as DOTS, and transferred to low and middle income countries. It focuses specifically on international agenda setting and policy formulation, and the role played by international organisations in those processes. It shows that policy communities, and particular individuals within them, may take political rather than technical positions in these processes, which can result in considerable contestation. The paper ends by suggesting that while it is possible to raise the profile of a policy dramatically through branding and marketing, success also depends on external events providing windows of opportunity for action. Second, it warns that simplifying policy approaches to 'one-size-fits-all' carries inherent risks, and can be perceived to harm locally appropriate programmes. Third, top-down internationally driven policy changes may lead to apparent policy transfer, but not necessarily to successfully implemented programmes.

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