Policy 101


"a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by a government, party, business, or individual."

Policies are everywhere: from the speed limits you observe on your way to work, to the dress code your employer mandates, to the agreement you signed on the credit card you used to pay for dinner.

The public policy process works roughly like this:

1) Before you can have a policy you must identify a problem. For example: secondhand smoke kills hundreds of non-smoking Louisianans each year.

2) Then you must decide on what outcome you want from your policy. For this example the desired outcome could be: Fewer people get sick and die from exposure to secondhand smoke.

3) Then you can start to think about forming a policy. This might be laws that restrict smoking in public places like bars and gaming facilities.

4) Advocate for your policy. Go in front of your local city council and educate them about the effects of secondhand smoke.

5) Your policy is adopted - congratulations! You're not done!

6) Now you implement your policy. This includes educating bar and casino owners and patrons about the new law and helping to spread awareness.

7) Finally, the policy has to be evaluated. Did it work? What was good/bad about the process as well as the policy.

GOOD policy is both scientifically sound and politically feasible. This means that it will achieve the desired outcome as well as have a chance to be adopted.

BAD policy is:

• Unenforceable — no where in the policy is any kind of enforcement authority granted

• Unfunded — no money = no change

• Too vague — if it doesn't apply to anyone... it doesn't apply to anyone

• Too specific — once you start listing, you will inevitably forget something

The following from the Metcalf Foundation has examples of different kinds of policies:

policy 101
For information on specific policies the Healthy Communities Coalition is pursuing, click here.

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