The term “policy” can have numerous definitions. At its foundation, policies are concepts created by decision makers to govern behavior and/or processes. Policy change can help address barriers to individual healthy choices (Steger, et al., 2010). There are different policy mechanisms and levels that individuals who wish to effect change should understand.

You might hear policy experts talk about “big P” and “little p” policies. “Big P” policies are formal laws, rules and regulations enacted by elected officials and official bodies (GW Cancer Center, 2017). “Little p” policies are less formal policies, usually related to administration or implementation, such as resolutions adopted by an organization or decisions about local implementation of a formal policy. Watch this YouTube video to learn more.

Some different types of policy include:

  • Individual Policy: Individuals can formulate personal policies that guide their decisions based on values, beliefs, and ideals.
  • Organizational Policy: Organizational policies govern business decisions and classify specific policy positions of organizations. These include personnel and operational policies.
  • Professional Policy: Professional policies are typically created by an association of professionals and guide professional practice and decorum.
  • Public Policy: Public policies are defined by the government and consist of a system of laws, ordinances, resolutions and orders that impact all aspects of life in our society.
  • Regulatory Policy: Once legislation is passed into law, regulations provide the procedural standards under which such laws are implemented into practice.


The George Washington University (GW) Cancer Center. (2017). HPV Vaccination Resource Book. Retrieved from https://smhs.gwu.edu/cancercontroltap/sites/cancercontroltap/files/2017.1.4%20AHEC%20HPV%20Resource%20Book_FINAL.pdf

Steger, C., Daniel, K., Gurian, G.L., Petherick, J.T., Stockmyer, C., David, A.M. & Miller, S.E. (2010). Public policy action and CCC implementation: Benefits and hurdles. Cancer Causes and Control, 21, 2014-2048.