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Policy analysis and option development

Policy analysis has many different meanings.

Defining policy analysis

In the context of health, policy analysis is defined as the process of identifying potential policy options that could address a health problem and then comparing the identified options to determine which is the most effective, efficient and feasible (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2019).

Policy analysis also refers to the process through which policy solutions to health problems are identified and analysed by the policymakers (Bardach 2011). Overall, it recognises that any policy involves a lot of variables. These variables include the need for the policy, its merits and demerits, political ramifications, costs and many more.

It’s important to undertake policy analysis as it ensures one has gone through a systematic process to inform option development. Also, it plays a critical role in predicting the consequences of policy options. Therefore, policymakers need expertise in policy analysis with competences including the ability to conduct literature reviews, compile best practices, and identify policy barriers and enablers.

Policy analysis and policy option development

There are two similar variants of health policy research and analysis that both inform option development. These are policy analysis and policy option analysis which are explained in the table below:

Policy analysis Policy option analysis
Involves the examination, analysis and description of existing policy to identify flaws and enablers. This is undertaken with the mindset to improve the policy. This assumes that an existing policy is flawed and unworkable, and sets out anew to solve these deficiencies to make them viable. The focus here is on analysing alternatives to the existing policy rather than revising an existing policy.

A simple analogy to illustrate these differences is deciding whether to fix a laptop that is malfunctioning or replace it altogether. Despite these differences, at the practical level, these variants are often used interchangeably and taken to mean the same thing.

Your task

While undertaking health policy analysis, what factors would influence your decision to adopt an option at the expense of others?

Share your thoughts in the comments area

Further reading

Dunn, W. N. (2015). Public Policy Analysis. Routledge

Gilson, L., & Raphaely, N. (2008). The Terrain of Health Policy Analysis in Low and Middle Income Countries: A Review of Published Literature 1994–2007. Health Policy and Planning, 23(5). https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/permalink/f/1ea4mrv/TN_proquest33575411

Walt, G., Shiffman, J., Schneider, H., Murray, S. F., Brugha, R., & Gilson, L. (2008). ‘Doing’ Health Policy Analysis: Methodological and Conceptual Reflections and Challenges. Health Policy and Planning, 23(5). https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/permalink/f/1ea4mrv/TN_proquest210828299


Bardach, E. (2011). A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis. The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving. CQ Press

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). The Policy Process. https://www.cdc.gov/policy/polaris/policyprocess/policy_analysis.html

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This article is from the free online course:

Policy Formulation and Analysis in Healthcare

Coventry University