What is a Health Policy Paper?
The issue addressed should be a legitimate contemporary health policy issue within which the current policy is clearly discernible.
There should be clear alternatives to the current policy.
There must be sufficient data present to provide the target audience (i.e. the decision-maker) with information to make a decision on the policy proposal.
Format for the Policy Paper
Below are the guidelines for writing a policy paper. Some variation may occur depending on the topic of the paper and the research methods being used. Policy papers should be approximately 8 pages in length.
Executive Summary (.5-1page in length)
At the beginning of the paper explain who the target audience is (i.e., the decision-maker for your policy proposal) and the main points that the decision-maker should know. It may be best to write this section last because it will serve as a summary of the entire paper.
At a minimum, the summary should include the following:
A statement of current policy
Reasons for initiating changes
Policy options to be considered
Pros and cons of each option
Recommended course of action
Reasoning for selecting that course of action
Body of Paper
The main portion of the paper should be dedicated to establishing the background and discussing the reasoning behind the policy recommendation. Students should include all of the basics from the executive summary, but fully elaborate on each point that the paper is making. The following is an outline describing what the main body of the paper should include.
Overview / Background
Statement of purpose – Why is the decision-maker being asked to consider a policy change at this time?
Review the Current Policy – What are we currently doing, why are we doing it this way, what is the public’s perception of the policy? Assess how well it is or is not working.
Statement on the Necessity for Change – What circumstances (e.g., changes in government, leadership, stability, etc.) have changed that make a new approach advisable or necessary?
Discuss the alternatives to the current policy option by enumerating and explaining each policy option in turn.
Pros and cons of each policy option should be discussed next. Identify the political, economic, and security implications for each option. Each policy option should be compared and contrasted to the other options as well as to the current policy. This is the most important part of the paper.
Clearly identify which option will be recommended and which options will be discounted.
Clearly lay out the argument for why that option is better than each of the others.
Write a detailed recommendation for specific steps on how and when to implement the recommended policy option.
Policy papers must present several policy alternatives, and they must be serious alternatives. As a general rule, three options should be presented. One serious alternative will often be to maintain the status quo.
Policy papers should include a clear cost-benefit analysis. The student should be certain to think through all possible outcomes clearly and thoroughly. The cost-benefit analysis should seriously consider the feasibility of implementation, not only in terms of economic or strategic implications, but also in terms of political feasibility. Moreover, the analysis of likely effects must not be completely one-sided. There are always going to be some benefits and some costs to any policy proposal.
Students should present clear criteria for evaluating the problem at hand and the policy alternatives to be considered. This will involve prioritizing among a variety of possible values. Trade-offs are the heart of the policy process – if solutions were easy or obvious, the problem would not be around for the student to analyze.
What are the likely result of the proposed policy option? Be specific and reasonably detailed. What level of certainty can one have about them? And what middle-run indicators would demonstrate success?
Health Policy Topics:
Food Safety Policies
Death with Dignity
Mental Health coverage, Mental Health Parity Act
Ninety-Day Grace Period- ACA 90 day grace period before an insurer can discontinue someone’s coverage for failure to pay a monthly premium.
Ideas (Health Policy Briefs, www.healthaffairs.org/healthpolicybriefs/archives)
What is Not a Policy Paper?
An historical analysis is never an appropriate topic for a policy paper. A policy paper must focus on a current policy issue. For example, an analysis of what George W. Bush should or should not have done in 2001 would work well as a research paper, but it would not be acceptable as a policy paper.
Comparative or case studies normally fit better as research papers than policy papers. For example, a comparative study of conflict resolution in South Africa and Northern Ireland, although certainly providing an analysis with contemporary relevance, would work far better as a research than a policy paper.
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