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NSW Public Health Bulletin archive

What evidence informs government population health policy? Lessons from early childhood intervention policy in Australia Volume 16 Issue 11-12

Shelley Bowen, Anthony Zwi, Peter Sainsbury

New South Wales Public Health Bulletin 16(12) 180 - 184 Published: 2005

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About the author/s

Shelley Bowen

Anthony Zwi

Peter Sainsbury


Given that we know that policy making is ‘iterative,
continuous, incremental, subject to review and inherently
political’, how does evidence feed into policy?
The term ‘evidence-based policy’ has become routinely
used in government policy deliberations, but the rhetoric is
often not matched by the reality. The systematic integration
of evidence into policy and practice is rare. There is also
ongoing debate on what constitutes evidence for policy.
This paper proposes a way of categorizing, according to
source, the evidence used for policy making. We draw on
the literature and on the ideas and experiences of the key
people (referred to here as policy ‘actors’) involved in the
development of policies that support families and the early
years of life in NSW and South Australia. The findings
from this study suggest that a variety of types of evidence
inform health policy making. This challenges the public
health community to broaden its ideas on what constitutes
evidence for policy and to recognize the validity of different
types of evidence in better informing the policy process.