Understanding Policy and the Policy Process

© 2012 Kim Burns Case/JHUCCP, Courtesy of PhotoshareWith a stronger understanding of policy, advocates may be better equipped to engage more effectively with decision makers and address questions such as:

  • How are policy decisions made?
  • Who is involved in making those decisions?
  • From whose perspective are problems identified?
  • For a given problem that has been identified, what information is needed to promote evidence-based decision making?
  • Has the policy been implemented, and is the implementation of approved policies monitored for accountability and learning?
  • To whom are the results of policy monitoring reported and what do they do with them?

The resources in this section of the Toolkit provide more detailed information on the three levels of policy that guide health programs:

  1. The legal and regulatory framework
  2. National policies (or state or provincial policies under decentralized systems), which include public financing for policies
  3. “Operational policies” or the myriad rules, regulations, codes, guidelines and administrative norms that serve as the mortar to translate national laws and policies into programs and services

These documents, such as The Policy Circle: A Framework for Analyzing the Components of Family Planning, Reproductive Health, Maternal Health and HIV/AIDS Policies, also provide useful explanations of the policy process. For example, Linking Health Policy with Health Systems and Health Outcomes: A Conceptual Framework breaks the process down into four stages, including problem identification, policy development, policy implementation, and policy monitoring and evaluation.

If you wish to suggest a policy resource for inclusion in the Family Planning Advocacy Toolkit or to share your experience advocating for family planning, please fill out our feedback form.