As anyone impacted by a health crisis can attest to, health policy plays an important role in a community’s response.
Effective policies can minimize the fallout from a public health emergency. Conversely, lack of policies, or poorly planned ones, can magnify the effects of a crisis. Health policy analysts are essential in the creation, implementation, and evaluation of public health policies.
What does a health policy analyst do?
Health policy analysts evaluate current and potential policies regarding health and health care in their community or organization. Their primary objectives are to understand how current health policies affect the community and the potential outcomes of future policies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define policy analysis as first identifying potential policy options that could address the issue at hand, then evaluating the feasibility and potential effectiveness of them.
To gain and share this understanding, health policy analysts carry out several different processes:
An important skill for this career path is the ability to collect and interpret data. Policy analysts may obtain data by administering surveys and carrying out their own research.
They may also conduct secondary research, applying existing available data to their analysis. They review this information and draw unique conclusions from it, helping to inform and support their positions on various health policies, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Quarterly explained.
A third method of obtaining applicable information is to partner with government, research, or academic organizations, which gather information and then share it with analysts.
Policy analysts must also know how to evaluate, interpret, and organize data. They use statistical analysis and modeling to help predict the potential impacts of policy across a community, both in the short and long terms.
Spreadsheets are an important tool that analysts must effectively use to organize data and share it with colleagues. These are also helpful when creating visual representations of data sets.
Budget analysis and fundraising
Setting public policy is more than just understanding the problem at hand and evaluating ways to counter it. There will always be obstacles in implementing new policies, including budgetary concerns.
To fully understand these challenges, policy analysts must track how funds are allocated and evaluate the impact of budgeting decisions. Analysts may draw conclusions about whether the outcomes of a program or policy justifies the costs. They may also make recommendations about how to fund programs, and assist in funding initiatives to help gather the necessary backing to implement or continue them.
Finally, policy analysts may have to conduct their own fundraising to support their data collection and analysis. While think tanks and other entities may have budgets from a parent organization, additional funding may be essential for conducting quality research, America’s Future Foundation pointed out.
Health policy analysts must have excellent verbal and written communication skills to share their findings with appropriate stakeholders, including policymakers, community leaders, and citizens.
Analysts communicate their findings in a variety of formats, including:
- Presentations to policymakers and community leaders
- Written pieces for newspapers and national publications
- Interviews with the media
- Events with community members and leaders
- Testimonies before town councils, legislative committees, and other elected bodies
- Policy briefs and reports
Health policy analyst: job specs
The average salary for a health policy analyst in the U.S. is $62,190, according to PayScale. However, this will differ based on years of experience, job location, and job title.
Health policy analysts typically work for government agencies, nonprofit organizations, think tanks, political action committees, and community groups. They may work independently or in teams. Policy teams may be composed of other analysts as well as economists, health care leaders, community partners, or other subject matter experts. In any case, the goal is the same; to develop policies that meet their organization’s or community’s needs.
A number of educational paths can lead a professional to a career in health policy analysis. Earning a Master in Public Health is a beneficial degree for those who aspire to make an impact on health policy.
The online MPH program offered through Regis College can position aspiring policy analysts for a career in assisting with health policy programs. Check out Regis’ MPH program with a concentration in Health Policy and Management to learn more.