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What is policy and where do we look for it when we want to research it?
  1. Brad Crammond1,
  2. Gemma Carey2
  1. 1Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Centre for Public Service Research, Business School, University of New South Wales Canberra, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gemma Carey, Centre for Public Service Research, Business School, University of New South Wales: Canberra, Northcott Dr, Campbell ACT 2612, Australia; g.carey{at}


Public health researchers are increasingly concerned with achieving ‘upstream’ change to achieve reductions in the global burden of disease and health inequalities. Consequently, understanding policy and how to change it has become a central goal of public health. Yet conceptualisation of what constitutes policy and where it can be found is very limited within this field. Our glossary demonstrates that policy is many headed. It is located in a vast array of documents, discussions dialogues and actions which can be captured variously by formal and informal forms of documentation and observation. Effectively understanding policy and its relevance for public health requires an awareness of the full range of places and contexts in which policy work happens and policy documents are produced.


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  • Contributors GC conceived of the paper. BC wrote the first draft. Both authors refined the paper.

  • Funding This study is funded by National Health and Medical Research Council.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.