Four studies, each on health technology assessment (HTA) in a different country, are presented in this volume. Conveying differing levels of sensitivity to political aspects of HTA, their storylines are similar in terms of the importance of the institutional structures that produce HTA and mediate its influence on health policy decision making. Regarding the internal politics of HTA, the latter appears to have developed in a relatively depoliticized environment, supported by a dense and varied web of institutional sites for funding, production, and consumption of HTA, buffered from the capricious impacts of electoral politics. Regarding external politics, HTA in all the countries began with relatively politically innocuous studies of technologies recognized to be of major import to national health systems or researcher-initiated studies. However, with increased focus in health systems on explicit determination of health benefits baskets, the role of HTA has become more high profile. This means that political accountability for the entire HTA process will increase. The implication is that future management of HTA programs will require self-conscious attention to the building of institutions capable of handling the delicate process of integrating science and politics in health policy.
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