This paper draws on studies of current knowledge on health policy processes in Cambodia, China and Lao PDR by a number of researchers in the POVILL Consortium. They are based on reviews of international and national literature and of policy documents, interviews with key informants and preliminary findings of small studies in a selection of rural localities. It explores why policy makers have become increasingly interested in strategies for helping households cope when a family member develops a serious illness and the reasons for their preference for demand-side approaches. It looks at, amongst other things, the influence of policy networks and stakeholder interests on policy formulation. It then explores factors that affect implementation. It concludes with a discussion of the questions that ongoing field studies are addressing.