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Canadian Public Health Association

Policy development process and submission procedures


CPHA develops policy alternatives based on the best available qualitative and quantitative evidence in support of its advocacy efforts. As a membership-based organization, we respond to issues of concern to the Canadian public and public health community. These issues are often broad and varied, and are not associated with any single discipline. We engage a broad range of knowledge holders (including researchers, practitioners, people with lived and living experience) to ensure the integrity and relevance of all of our position statements, policies, and advocacy activities.

The objectives of the policy development process are to:

  • Ensure a uniform, evidence-informed, systematic and practical review process;
  • Respond to emerging and urgent public health issues and concerns in a timely way; and,
  • Advocate on issues as they arise.

In November 2022, CPHA’s Board of Directors endorsed a new process for the development of advocacy-focused position statements. 

Effective advocacy presents a request for change where the change goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It is couched in language and framing that are accessible to its intended audience. Advocacy efforts must focus rigorously on advancing SMART goals without diluting the clarity of messaging or weakening impact with extraneous issues. 

A position statement is the foundation for CPHA advocacy in that it contains focused analysis and SMART recommendations on a policy issue, designed either to stand on its own as a message to target audiences or to be the basis of a larger advocacy campaign. The distinctive purpose of a position statement is to advance public discussion and policy-making when recommendation goals are SMART and when the time is right for CPHA’s advocacy to have an impact on decision-making by governments and other stakeholders.

CPHA’s advocacy efforts are always informed by public health value commitments, including social justice and human rights, equity, anti-racism and anti-oppression, and Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. They are always informed by public health’s methodological commitments to analyzing upstream determinants of health. In order to be effective, however, position statements must focus on a relatively narrow sub-set of contextual and policy issues.

In contexts where a position statement is not appropriate, other kinds of policy tools may be used by CPHA in order to advance healthy public policy discussion. An emerging issue might be analyzed through an internally-focused watching brief; or if preliminary conclusions have emerged from internal analysis, these can be shared publicly through a discussion document. 

Process for developing position statements

A new position statement should be considered when external discussion and policy development on an issue might realistically be influenced through timely analysis and recommendations by CPHA. This means:

  • A CPHA position statement is timely with respect to current and/or anticipated developments in the public sphere (e.g., potential legislative or policy change, significant developments in the policy or political ecosystem, emergence of significant new evidence);
  • A CPHA position statement is recognized as relevant and important by the actors to whom the recommendations would be directed;
  • The issue is national in scope and has significant importance for the health of everyone in Canada, or one or more sub-populations.
  1. CPHA staff develop an initial summary describing:
    • the policy issue to be addressed;
    • why CPHA advocacy is timely in the current context;
    • the anticipated policy recommendation(s) as well as shorter- and longer-term advocacy goals; and
    • the production timeframe required in order for the position statement to support timely advocacy.
  2. CPHA staff develop an issue analysis that includes a preliminary assessment of:
    • aspects of the issue where new research and analysis are needed to inform and support recommendations;
    • aspects of the issue where an existing CPHA position statement and/or the evidence are well-established or unchanged; and
    • stakeholders and structurally disadvantaged populations known to have distinct interests at stake.
  3. Based on the issue analysis, CPHA staff develop an outline of relevant stakeholders and sources of evidence and expertise to be consulted in doing new research and analysis. These evidence sources will include:
    • peer-reviewed and grey literature as well as expert informants; and
    • relevant sources from lived/living experience, analysis and advocacy by structurally disadvantaged groups with a distinct stake in the policy issue.
  4. The documents resulting from steps 1-3 are circulated to the Indigenous Advisory Council, Public Policy Committee, and the Board of Directors with a request to endorse the development of the proposed position statement. These bodies will also be asked for input on relevant stakeholders and perspectives to consider and sources of expertise and evidence to consult. Documents resulting from steps 1-3 will simultaneously be reviewed by external experts identified by staff as having specialized knowledge (research and/or lived/living experience) of the subject area. Other subject experts identified by Indigenous Advisory Council, Public Policy Committee, and the Board of Directors may also be asked to do external reviews.
  5. Drawing on feedback from step 4, CPHA staff develop an initial draft of the position statement.
  6. Indigenous Advisory Council, Public Policy Committee, the Board of Directors and the previously-consulted external reviewers review the initial draft.
  7. CPHA staff incorporate feedback from step 6 into a second draft.
  8. Indigenous Advisory Council and Public Policy Committee review the second draft.
  9. CPHA staff revise the second draft as needed and present a final version to the Board for approval.
  10. The position statement is released, followed by advocacy activities as appropriate.

In some cases, external circumstances might dictate that a position statement be developed on a compressed timeframe in order for the resulting advocacy to have impact. In such cases, gathering input from the Indigenous Advisory Council, Public Policy Committee and the Board of Directors may be accomplished via electronic communication or special, combined consultations. 


In addition to position statements, policy tools used by CPHA include: 

Discussion Document: A published statement that provides an overview and analysis of an emerging or evolving public policy issue where the available evidence/knowledge is insufficient for the development of SMART recommendations. A discussion document is released to encourage additional discourse on the topic.

Endorsement: A statement made by CPHA supporting a position or initiative originating from an external organization or coalition. The decision to provide an endorsement is within the purview of the Executive Director, following consultation with the Chair and Chair-elect when an existing CPHA policy is available to guide the decision.

Policy: A clear, internally-focused plan with stated objectives, applied to CPHA’s activities, procedures and decisions. It may direct future work or action. Endorsing or approving a policy implies a commitment of action and resources.

How to submit a topic for policy development

The proponent is responsible for providing a completed Policy Proposal to the Policy Department. The Policy Department will then manage the document through the review and consideration process.

The proponent should:

  1. Ensure the proposed position or policy meets all the following criteria: 
    • The proponent must be a current member.
    • The issue clearly falls within CPHA’s mandate and mission.
    • The issue is clearly within the domain of public health.
    • The Association is able to make a tangible contribution to the issue.
    • The Association has the potential to influence thinking and action on the issue.
  2. Ascertain that the issue relates to our strategic plan, an existing position or policy, or is an emerging public health issue.
  3. Complete and submit a Policy Proposal.

The Policy Department will acknowledge receipt of a proposal and communicate with the proponent if further information is required. Once deemed to meet the submission criteria, the proposal will be reviewed by the Public Policy Committee, which will determine whether the proposal should be forwarded to the Board for a comprehensive review or whether additional information is required to make a decision. The Board of Directors is the ultimate decision-making body to approve or reject a proposal. If it approves a proposal, it will prioritize that work vis-à-vis the overall policy development agenda.


If you have a question about the policy process, please contact the Policy Department.