Creating Relevant Questions In Health Policy Analysis

Instructor: Maya Shapland

Maya has worked in the clinical, education, and management sections of healthcare for over 25 years and holds bachelor's degree in Speech and associate degree in Nursing.

Do you know what's involved in a health policy analysis? In this lesson, a hypothetical Ebola outbreak is our health problem. We'll examine the process and the formation of questions that will assist the policy team to create a healthy policy.

Health Policy Analysis

Gerald is part of a national team of advisors working on health policies for his northeastern region. Health policy analysis is the evaluation of policies and problems that address a particular health issue including a pathway to reach those goals. It contains data and research surrounding the health problem.

Healthcare Policy Process

Gerald is using the Centers for Disease Control five-step process for working through a possible Ebola outbreak. First, Gerald has to identify and state the problem; analyze the policy-problem; develop the policy and plan for its release to healthcare organizations; release the policy to those whom it affects, and implement the policy with ongoing evaluation as things change.

This sounds overwhelming, but many stakeholders (interested investors), also called actors, will facilitate their part in the play. Gerald is responsible for the show. Here's how your health policy process may look:

Cycle of health policy analysis
Process of health policy

Health Policy Analysis

The success of the policy development and launch depends largely on the policy analysis. This is where research, data, current policy, and trends can come into view for evaluation. This task may be broken up into several pieces for each person to contribute their part. In this phase, questions can be asked such as who makes the decisions, how organizations decide a course of action, how the policy will affect those who will carry it out.

Asking the questions at this juncture will help Gerald find out where the gaps may lie and will provide a more critical look from many perspectives. Policy analysis must address these vital elements to be successful in the rest of the process. Gerald must determine the impact of the policy and investigate the feasibility the possibility of achievement.

For example, in an Ebola outbreak, Gerald has to know who the policymakers will be. The federal government, local governments, healthcare organizations, and staff will all be involved in this policy development and implementation.

Here is a snapshot of possible questions for Gerald and his team to ask and answer prior to advancing to developing the policy:

Ebola Outbreak Policy Analysis (sample) Possible Answers
Who will take ownership of this policy? Federal government, Centers for Disease Control-updates and enforces policy
Who will be receiving this policy? Public Health and Healthcare providers
Who benefits from this policy? Staff, Providers, and Patients
What research will be needed? Need data on transmission, isolation, treatments
What kind of environment will this policy affect? Public Health, hospitals, emergency services
What kind of data is needed? Centers for Disease Control can provide outbreak data
Are there political or diplomatic forces that will need to be addressed? U.S. and South Africa first

When entering this phase of analysis, there is an important aspect that must be addressed; who will pay the bill for this policy-making process? Financial analysis will need to be completed and can contain some of these important points:

  • Cost-benefit analysis for the policy creation and implementation to protect the public from Ebola will need to be done prior to advancing with this work. Some policies are too expensive and lack the need for such a costly adventure.
  • If this policy for Ebola is a nationwide policy, who will pay for education and training materials, websites for staff and patients? Who will pay for the enforcement and monitoring of policy compliance?

One last note before moving on, Gerald must have a legal team weigh-in on a matter as huge as an Ebola outbreak.

Health Policy Example

Writing the problem statement with depth can help keep the clarity when advancing through analysis. Here's a possible problem statement regarding the Ebola outbreak:

The Ebola outbreak has occurred on the continent of South Africa and has advanced to four areas in the United States causing more than 500 infections including 236 deaths. The Centers for Disease Control has been called into the frontlines assisted by the military to contain the virus and begin treatments for the infected. The main elements of this problem are:

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