What makes good policy 

What makes good policy

Public policy describes the role of government from local level (city council) to federal (U.S. Supreme Court) developing laws and regulations as well as allocating resources.  Non government entities like individuals or groups contribute to the development of policy through education, advocacy, or interest groups.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines policy as “ a law, regulation, procedure, administrative action, incentive or voluntary practice of governments and other institutions”.

There are three forms of policy that can operate at any level:

– Legislative Policies: created by elected officials

– Regulatory policies: add specificity to policies developed by a legislative body

– litigation: public policy created through judicial opinions

However, not all public policy is enacted by law.  In many cases these policies serve moreso as guidance by administrative entities.

Health equity should always be considered in public policy: conditions of where people are born, live, work, learn. 


– Importance of public policy

Public policy influences systems that contribute to the wellbeing of a population.  From birth to death, all aspects of our lives are impacted by public policy.  For example, at some point, every citizen will receive money from the government whether it be student loans, unemployment compensation, Medicare, Medicaid.  Decisions on these resources are made by elected officials.  Due to the complexity of current social issues,  cross sector approaches are necessary and achieved through public policy. 


– Example of good public policy

Good policy is when the policy produces a measurable and positive outcome.  There are nine steps to successful public policy:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Gather evidence
  3. identify causes
  4. evaluate a policy
  5. develop solutions
  6. select best solution
  7. evaluate benefits and costs
  8. utilize the prince system (probe, interact, calculate, execute)
  9. develop political strategies


Factors to consider for whether a policy is “good policy”:

– Does the policy solve the problem?

– Does the policy use government?  If so, at what level?  Is that level appropriate?

– Is the policy constitutional?

– Is the policy realistic? 

– Is there enough public support?

– What are the costs associated with the policy?

– Will the policy be passed?


Characteristics of Successful Public Policy: https://online.norwich.edu/academic-programs/masters/public-administration/resources/infographics/characteristics-of-successful-public-policy


Definitions of Public Policy and the Law: https://mainweb-v.musc.edu/vawprevention/policy/definition.shtml


The Importance of Policy Change for Addressing Public Health Problems: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0033354918788880


Overview of Policy Evaluation: https://www.cdc.gov/injury/pdfs/policy/Brief%201-a.pdf


Public Policy: Perspectives and Choices: https://www.rienner.com/uploads/53aae610dd33a.pdf


How to shape and move policy

We all have a role to play in shaping and moving policy.  These steps will help with influencing policy

  1. State why a policy needs to be developed or modified
  2. Study the issue or problem a policy change would affect
  3. Based on who the issue or problem affects, determine what type of policies need to be developed and at what level (city/county, state, national)
    1. Public laws and ordinances
    2. Regulatory policies
    3. Executive orders from elected officials
    4. Business policies and organizational rules and bylaws
  4. Determine what you or your group will do to influence policy development
  5. Identify resources and assets to use for policy development
  6. Determine allies and opponents
  7. Find agents of change (champions of policy change)
  8. Choose strategies and action plan
  9. Determine whether planned policy goals, strategies and actions fit the situation
  10. Create action plan for policy efforts
  11. Implementation of plan
  12. Evaluation

Take the time to get familiar with the legislative process at the city and/or county of where you live, state and federal levels.  Remember that every policy begins as an idea. 

At the federal level the process of a bill becoming a law begins with a constituent sharing their idea with an elected official.  The official introduces the bill and the bill goes to committee.  After committee, congress debates and votes.  If the bill passes in congress then its is sent to the President.  If the president approves the bill then the bill becomes a law. 

How Laws are made and how to Research Them: https://www.usa.gov/how-laws-are-made

Influencing Policy Development: https://ctb.ku.edu/en/influencing-policy-development