What is Public Health Policy?

Public policy administration explores how government decisions are made and how the administrative projects required to bring those decisions to fruition are designed and implemented. The study of public policy and administration covers the decision making process, as well as the administrative process involved in implementing projects that work in the public’s interest.

Public policy administration involves implementing and managing governmental policies through expert analysis. It also often includes finding resolutions to specific issues. Public policies are, in fact, decisions that are reached by analyzing data and by considering the good of the people within a given governmental jurisdiction.

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While it can be debated whether public policy administration is always unbiased and neutral, professionals in public policy and administration must be able to understand the economic implications of policy choices, evaluate policy options, conduct and assess research projects, and develop political strategies for advancing proposals.

Careers in Public Policy and Administration

Public policy administrators (often referred to as bureaucrats) are responsible for overseeing governmental tasks and functions and implementing solutions to society’s challenges. These professionals advise elected officials of the strengths and areas of improvement of public health programs. They are also charged with managing public agencies, overseeing budgets, creating governmental policies, and serving as liaisons between government and public health entities.

Public policy and administration professionals are responsible for managing, budgeting, and understanding the nature of the public workplace, including the political and legal structures that govern these environments.

Among the jobs in public health policy and administration are:

Public Health Researchers

Public health researchers, also often called public health technicians and analysts, are responsible for gathering and analyzing data on public health trends, with the main goal of educating the general public in health promotion. These professionals conduct research through survey campaigns and community data analyses, and the findings of their research is then used to influence healthcare policies and regulations, as well as public health education campaigns.

Public health researchers are also responsible for performing a number of administrative, analytical, technical, and educational functions. For example, they may conduct survey campaigns to collect data on health trends affecting specific populations, and then apply that data to the development of health promotion programs or public health policies. These professionals often collaborate with one another to develop new research methods and programs.

Their administrative work often includes drafting memos, speeches, and briefs and organizing and filing records related to their acquired data. Public health researchers are also often responsible for overseeing community involvement; therefore, they may participate in public events, interview people, or give presentations on current public health issues.

Healthcare Policy Analysts

Healthcare policy analysts, also frequently referred to as healthcare planners, health promotion program officers, and health services researchers, focus their work on the evaluation, design, and analysis of program implementation, policy formation, and cost-benefit strategies. These public health professionals are responsible for overseeing the development and evaluation of strategies that are designed to improve the way a healthcare delivery system functions.

Healthcare policy analysts may work for any number of organizations, such as governmental agencies that are responsible for regulating and financing health services, organizations that provide healthcare services, nonprofit organizations, or professional associations. They may also work for research labs, hospitals, community agencies, and educational institutions.

Regardless of the setting in which they work, healthcare policy analysts are responsible for:

  • Gathering, organizing, and analyzing information
  • Developing health policies by analyzing statistical data
  • Designing, implementing, and monitoring programs
  • Maintaining health information databases
  • Writing and distributing program and policy information to the general public

Health Services Managers

Health services managers, also referred to as health services administrators, are responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating medical and public health services. Their work may involve managing a specific department or unit, or they may oversee an entire medical practice or facility. Their expertise allows them to adapt to any changes in healthcare laws and regulations.

Just a few of the job responsibilities of health services managers include:

  • Working to improve the quality and efficiency of the delivery of healthcare services
  • Supervising assistant directors or administrators
  • Overseeing a facility’s finances, including patient fees and billing
  • Hiring and supervising personnel
  • Communicating with government agencies, members of the medical team, and policymakers
  • Creating and overseeing public health outreach campaigns


Degrees in Public Policy and Administration

Individuals interested in pursuing careers in public policy and administration may choose to complete an undergraduate degree in any number of majors, such as: sociology, economics, computer science, public health, political science, political science, social work, and public policy, just to name a few.


Graduate degrees for professionals in public policy and administration are commonplace, and one of the most widely recognized is the Master of Public Health (MPH).

More specifically, the MPH in Public Policy and Administration prepares students for leadership positions in government, private, and nonprofit organizations. An MPH in Public Policy and Administration includes study in the political, legal, and economic environments of public work, as well as organization and management theories and best practices in management.

Typical core coursework in an MPH in Public Policy and Administration includes:

  • Immigration politics and policy
  • Emerging issues in public administration
  • Education and social policy
  • Topics in public history
  • Politics of international economic relations

Most programs encompass a range of specialized areas, including public administration, public policy, global health, health services policy, and global policy. Students interested in these programs generally need to display a background in public service through internships, research, employment, or volunteer experience with policy-oriented organizations.

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