Prevention or Cure in Public Policy?

Research Report




Dr Alan Tapper, Professor John Phillimore



The discussion paper reports on findings from a study examining the extent to which a focus on prevention can better inform public policy in Western Australia. It is concluded that a successful prevention policy has three pre-requisites: understanding of the problem, based on good evidence and professional experience; effective program design; and, advocacy for the policy from academics, professionals, the public service and community leaders. In addition, the study found that a preventive approach to policy will carry the following elements: a high degree of consensus on the problem and the solution, including consensus at the level of ordinary citizens; a strong advocacy coalition, that can see problems in a long perspective and can plan for the future well beyond the normal political cycle; a clearly defined grasp of the costs and benefits of policies; a clearly defined grasp of the causation that accounts for effective policy action; funding certainty for long periods; a whole-of-government approach wherever problems cross departmental boundaries; and, sequenced outcomes and staged progress markers to indicate achievement. The study cautions that any prevention approach to policy is not a “silver bullet”, and must be critically previewed and reviewed.

How to cite:

Tapper, A., and J. Phillimore. Prevention or Cure in Public Policy?, A report for the Curtin Centre for Sport and Recreation Research and the Department of Sport and Recreation WA. Perth. Curtin University of Technology, The John Curtin Institute of Public Policy (JCIPP), August 2011.