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Impact of Large-Scale Public Policy Changes

This brief provides a definition of policy evaluation, including a description of the evaluation framework used and a definition of policy. It also presents information about the general value and potential challenges of conducting policy evaluation. Defining Policy The CDC definition of “Policy” is “a law, regulation, procedure, administrative action, incentive or voluntary practice of governments and other institutions.”1 Policies generally operate at the systems level and can influence complex systems in ways that can improve the health and safety of a population. A policy approach can be a cost-effective way to create positive changes in the health of large portions of the population. There are several types of policy, each of which can operate at different levels (national, state, local, or organizational)2 Legislative policies are laws or ordinances created by elected representatives. Regulatory policies include rules, guidelines, principles, or methods created by government agencies with regulatory authority for products or services. Organizational policies include rules or practices established within an agency or organization. What Is Policy Evaluation?3 Policy evaluation applies evaluation principles and methods to examine the content, implementation or impact of a policy. Evaluation is the activity through which we develop an understanding of the merit, worth, and utility of a policy. CDC Evaluation Framework While there are a variety of different approaches to evaluation, this set of briefs utilize the six-step CDC Framework for Evaluation in Public Health, as shown in Figure 1. 4 The Framework outlines an ongoing process comprising six steps of program evaluation.2 These six steps are also applicable to policy evaluation and provide a guide for implementing a thorough evaluation. The remaining briefs each discuss the implementation of one or more of these steps. Figure 2 illustrates which steps are discussed in each brief. Briefs 2, 6, and 7 discuss the steps as they apply to all types of policy evaluation, whereas Briefs 3, 4, and 5 discuss Step 3 (focusing the evaluation design) as it applies to the specific types of policy evaluation.