BACKGROUND: Policy analysis is often retrospective and not well suited to helping policy makers decide what to do; in contrast prospective policy analysis seeks to assist in formulating responses to challenging public policy questions. Suicide in Sri Lanka is a major public health problem, with ingestion of pesticides being the primary method. Previous policy interventions have been associated with reduced mortality through restricting access to the most toxic pesticides. Additional means of reducing access are still needed.
METHODS: The prospective policy analysis comprised two stages. The first used a consensus activity within a well defined policy community to generate and frame policy options. The second broadened the analysis to include other stakeholders. We report the consensus activity with seven actors from agriculture, health, and academia. Policy options were identified through two rounds of discussion along with ratings by each participant on their degree of support for each option. Data were analysed quantitatively and discussions analysed with Nvivo 8 to code prominent and recurrent themes.
RESULTS: The main finding was the strong support and consensus for two proposals: further regulation of pesticides and the novel idea of repackaging pesticides into non-lethal doses. Participants identified several factors that were supportive of future policy change including a strong legislative framework, good links between agriculture, health and academia, and a collaborative relationship with industry. Identified barriers and potential threats to policy change included political interference, difficulties of intersectoral collaboration, acceptability of options to the community, difficulty of implementation in rural communities and the challenge of reducing mortality.
CONCLUSIONS: The development and consideration of policy options within this epistemic community reflected an appreciation and understanding of many of the factors that can facilitate or thwart policy change. The understanding of context, evidence and ideas, implementation and impact influenced how the participants considered and rated the options. Use of epistemic community actors identified the level of support for each option, helped elaborate the particularities of context, as well as the power and influence of ideas. Further examination of the potential barriers and opportunities for these options will determine if broader consensus, involving a wider range of stakeholders, can be achieved and policy change promoted.
- Journal Article