8 Steps to Develop an Effective Public Health Policy

Updated on March 15, 2021

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There’s no denying that 2020 was a terrible year for most of us. Why? Because the global population experienced a devastating pandemic. And to deal with this crisis, numerous public health policies have been introduced worldwide. These policies, including public health protective measures such as wearing masks in public, frequent hand washing, and physical distancing, aim to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. What’s more, is that these policies have now become an integral component of our daily lives as we continue our battle against this deadly virus.

While coronavirus-related policies easily demonstrate why public health policies are crucial, they’re just a snapshot of the overarching public health policies. There is still plenty of work that needs to be done to ensure the disbursement of quality healthcare services to people in the public sphere.

If you have a keen interest in healthcare policy-making, here are eight steps that can help design and implement an effective public health policy. Successfully. Let’s dive in!

Step 1: Define the problem

This will be your first step where you’ll study the problem comprehensively. It will serve as a foundation on which you’ll evaluate options, develop intelligible goals, and build support for the policy among decision-makers.

You’ll have to consider measurable objectives at individual, organizational, and societal levels. Make sure they’re SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound). It is essential to understand how public administration can help achieve these goals thoroughly. A course in MPA online will help you make these objectives a strategic priority. Here’s how you can understand the problem:

  • Causes: What is the cause/origin of the problem?
  • Impact: What is the cost and degree of the problem in your community?
  • Perception: Who views it as a problem and who doesn’t?
  • Potential solutions: What measures have been taking to resolve the problem, if any? What are some policy/non-policy solutions? What are the benefits/costs of various solutions?

Step 2: Evaluate the readiness for policy development

Here, you’ll identify whether or not you should move forward. The decision should be based on two factors. One, is your enterprise prepared to support or lead the process? And two, is your community ready for a particular policy? You can evaluate readiness by:

Community: Who will support you and who won’t? Identify possible reasons for unsupportive people. What is the opinion of the public? Determine possible reasons that can be given to put the policy on hold. Is there any awareness or education program with your community that aims to solve your problem? Have they been successful? Did the media highlight this problem lately?

Organization: Does the policy and development process aligns with your mandate? Do you have enough resources and time to support it? Who will be the possible supporters of the process?

It is crucial to find answers to all these questions to determine readiness before developing reasonable goals and options. Once you know you’re ready, you’re good to go.

Step 3: Development of goals, objectives, and policy options

Next, you need to define goals and objectives for the policy change. You’ll then come up with a list of policy options that you’d want your decision-makers to go through. If you’re smart, you’ll put multiple options. It will help gain stakeholders’ attention as they’ll know you’re willing to negotiate and not be rigid with your propositions. Plus, an assessment of multiple options allows you to explain why you’ll not support specific options.

Step 4: Identification of influencers and decision-makers

Determine the decision-makers that will assist you in your support-building efforts. Don’t make the wrong people part of your plans as it will waste resources. It will put future strategies at risk if you approach people at the wrong time or wrong level.

Step 5: Development of support for the policy

If you want your decision-makers to proceed with policy development, ensure you choose the suitable vehicles and channels for persuasion. Since this step can make you win or lose, it’s essential to build messages that are put forward using these methods.

You can develop support for your policy by choosing a combination of approaches, for instance, letter writing, public briefs, sharing information, quiet negotiation, etc.

Step 6: Revision of the policy draft

This step will entail defining specific legal and logistical details regarding a policy. Usually, it’s the precise working of a policy that makes or breaks it. Make sure your policy has the following:

  • Goals and objectives
  • A promotional and dissemination plan
  • An assessment and monitoring plan
  • Description of sanctions and regulations
  • Procedures for infringement

Step 7: Implementation of the public health policy

Before implementing the public health policy, make sure that every pre-requisite is in place. There are tons of examples of policies that never made it to the final phase because they were too controversial, costly, or impractical.

Before embarking on policy implementation, make sure the following conditions are met:

  • The policy’s objectives need to be measurable
  • A precise estimate of the resources required for the implementation of your policy has been laid down
  • Key stakeholders and decision-makers have sent their approval
  • The policy states the responsibilities of everyone involved
  • The timeline is appropriate and realistic (based on the evidence from your readiness evaluation and stakeholders’ input)

Step 8: Evaluation and monitoring

You need to identify the problems early and make timely amendments to ensure the policy doesn’t overturn when faced with implementation challenges. If possible, a comprehensive assessment must be carried out to mitigate implementation costs and demonstrate accountability to stakeholders.

Come up with a few questions for evaluation, which may include:

  • Has the situation in public health improved in comparison to when the policy was initially implemented?
  • Was the policy effective? If not, why?
  • Are individuals who were part of the policy process happy with the outcomes?
  • Do the affected people view the policy favorably?
  • If not, what can you do to deal with their concerns?
  • Can the policy be affected by foreseeable developments?


There’s a need for public health policies in the global society today. These policies play an essential role in improving the overall population’s quality of life, health, and wellness. Follow the eight steps outlined above to develop an effective public health policy. We’re sure your public health policy will be a great contributor to a more productive and prosperous society.

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