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Public Health Regulation as a Public Process

Media coverage of new public health regulations often seems to follow a template:

The [regulatory agency]’s plan to implement [public health regulation] is causing controversy among [businesses affected] and [individuals who object]. While public health officials say the plan is needed in order to address the [public health problem] that affects [statistics], opponents believe the plan to be an example of government interfering too much in [topic area].

These news stories carry the implication that all sides of the issue are frozen into position and that policy making is little more than a power struggle.

But there’s another way to think about how policy is developed to improve health: as a dynamic process open to a range of policy alternatives. Besides adopting binding regulations, agencies can take a range of other steps, such as educating about a health threat, asking for public reporting of data, and encouraging voluntary efforts by key parties.

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