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Policy and Injury Prevention

What is policy?

Policy is a “law, regulation, procedure, administrative action, incentive, or voluntary practice of government.” Often, policies operate at the organizational, local, state, or national level and can influence complex systems in ways that can improve the health and safety of a population. For example, transportation policies can encourage physical activity (pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly community design).

Policies are defined as binding, enforceable written statements that reflect the values and decisions of a group or organization. They can apply broadly to a geographic area, institution, physical space, or group of people. Types of policies include guidelines, principles, or methods created by government agencies, as well as organizational contracts, rules, or practices established within an agency or organization. Regulatory rules governing how to calculate eligibility for a benefit count as policies too.

Why is policy important to public health and injury prevention?

Policy development is an essential public health function and is included in three of the 10 Essential Public Health Services as outlined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Policy strategies are one of many ways to address injury prevention on public health and public issue safety. It can be a cost-effective way to create a healthy population in preventing injuries in all groups. Policies are an important part of a comprehensive injury and violence prevention plan. They can help create an environment that enables or reinforces programs and practices. Policy-oriented approaches also have the potential to affect factors at the community and societal levels of the social-ecological model that increase or buffer against the risk for injury and violence. Prevention policies that advance health equity help ensure the benefits of prevention policies, practices, and programs extend to all segments of the population, thereby making it possible to achieve greater reductions in violence.

Who has a role in policy?

Public health professionals play an important role in policy development by conducting policy-relevant research, communicating findings in a manner that facilitates action, developing partnerships, and encouraging the efficient use of resources through the promotion of policies based on science—such as the promotion of evidence-based, health interventions.

Policies can be operated at different levels by different groups, including Congress, the president, the president’s cabinet, advisers, agency bureaucrats, federal and state courts, political parties, interest groups, the media and many more. All these groups interact to make health decisions.

What is the policy process?

CDC’s Policy Process provides a systematic way to develop policies that can help address community public health problems. The stakeholder engagement and education policy include five domains, which result in policy implementation. The five domains are:

  • Problem Identification: Determine the root cause of a public health problem and write a problem statement. This step is where you decide you want to go on a policy journey.

  • Policy Analysis: Identify possible policy options and pick the one you think is best. Here, you consider several destinations and decide between them.

  • Strategy and Policy Development: Plan how to develop, draft, and enact your policy. In this step, you choose the route to your destination.

  • Policy Enactment: Follow official procedures to get your policy authorized. This is when you actually depart on your journey.

  • Policy Implementation: Plan for successful policy implementation and achieve the desired outcomes. This is successfully traveling to your destination.

Note: State and local agencies funded by CDC are permitted to work directly on policy-related matters. Look for CDC Anti-Lobbying Guidelines in Policy Resources for what activities are allowed or prohibited.


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