Policy Making

Policy making is a critical function for DHHS and involves the initiation, shaping, and ultimately, implementation of congressional and presi dential decisions. It involves the creation and use of an evidence base, informed by social values, so that public decision makers can shape legislation, regulations, and programs. The annual budget cycle is routinely the time when lawmakers present new legislation and renew legislation for existing programs and when DHHS defends proposed program budgets to Congress. Policy making also occurs through program initiatives that do not require legislative action. One of the leading examples in public health is the Healthy People initiative, which establishes national goals and objectives for health promotion and disease prevention. The Healthy People initiative is led by the DHHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and now involves all DHHS operating divisions, other federal departments, and partnerships with state and local public health officials, as well as more than 350 national membership organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and corporate sponsors. Although the effort is voluntary, the activity and regular widespread public consultation involved in the initiative have perhaps proved to be the department's most effective nonlegislative policy vehicle for promoting action on population health at the national, state, and local levels (Boufford and Lee, 2001).

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