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briefing paper

| October 26, 2015

Drawing on information and ideas you gathered and developed in Assignment 1 (where relevant), you are required to prepare a briefing paper with recommendations for one of the following target audiences:
1) Director of an international health program
2) Minister for Health, or director of a national health service/program
3) Community leader, or director of a community health service/program.

To complete the assignment, you will need to carry out an in-depth study of a global health issue in a specific local context, such as a district, province or country that is of interest and relevance to your target audience. Note: you must focus on a locality outside Australia. Your briefing paper should explain how and why the issue is a problem in your selected local context and which population groups are most affected, for example, an ethic group, refugees, women, children, slum dwellers, remote communities, people working in a particular industry.

Your briefing paper should provide a detailed account of existing strategies/steps to address the problem in the selected local context. This could include financing and technical support for specific health services/programs, and/or laws and regulations to improve relevant health outcomes. Depending on the local context being investigated, you may need to be selective and limit the scope of your analysis to only the most relevant and targeted interventions, which could be international, national or local in origin and scope. What are the strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches? Provide recommendations to address the problem more effectively. Pay special attention to the needs and concerns of vulnerable population groups.

Briefing papers are widely used by government, non-profits and industry to provide a snapshot of what is known about a particular issue, and provide recommendations for action. They are commonly produced in response to a direct request from a decision-maker, either by a member of their own staff or by an organisation that intends to advocate for the position detailed in the brief. The brief synthesises a large amount of complex information so the decision-maker can easily understand the heart of the issue, its background and significance, the failure of existing approaches, and recommendations for action. The purpose is to convince the reader of the urgency of the problem and the need to adopt the course of action outlined in the brief.

Target audience for the brief
The target audience for the brief must be identified on the title page. Note, the target audience must be in a position to implement the recommendations put forward.
Title of the paper
The title aims to catch the attention of the target audience and compel him/her to read on. It needs to be descriptive, punchy and relevant.
Executive summary
The executive summary is a short summary of the purpose of the brief and its recommendations. It should include:
• A description of the problem addressed
• A statement on why the current approach needs to be changed
• Recommendations for action.

Context of the problem under discussion
This section aims to convince the target audience that a problem exists which requires them to take action. It should include:
• A clear statement of the problem in focus: Define the problem. How, why and for whom is it problematic? Provide quantitative estimates of the problem’s magnitude and intensity; for example, how many lives are affected, how many dollars are spent or lost? Use published data set from government and non-government organisations.
• An overview of the causes of the problem: When and how did it arise? Remember to consider the underlying determinants of health, i.e. how is health and ill health produced and reproduced in the selected local context? Assume that you have been hired to filter through reams of information on behalf of a very busy person. Be clear, precise, and succinct.
• A clear statement of the implications of the problem: Why does it require action?

Review of existing approaches to resolve the problem
This section informs the reader about existing policies and programs to address the problem. It should include:
• A summary of what has been done about the problem so far
• An argument illustrating why and how current approaches are succeeding/failing.

It is important to consider the strengths and weaknesses of as many different approaches as possible in order to inform your recommendations on how the problem can best be resolved. For clarity, you can present the pros and cons of different approaches in bullet points.
Recommendations for action
The final section of the paper sets out a recommended course of action that is rooted in the results of the analysis. It should include:
• A breakdown of the specific practical steps or measures that need to be taken by the target audience to improve the problem
• A closing paragraph re-emphasising the importance of action by the target audience.

Qualities of a good briefing paper
• Limited – the focus of the brief needs to be limited to a specific problem in order to provide a sufficiently comprehensive argument within limited space.
• Focused – all aspects of the brief should be strategically focused on convincing the target audience to adopt a particular course of action. The analysis must build on what they already know about the problem, provide insight about what they don’t know about the problem, and be presented in language that reflects their values and concerns, that is, using ideas, evidence and language that will convince them to adopt the recommendations put forward.
• Evidence-based – the brief must be supported by evidence that the problem exists, and of the strengths and weaknesses of existing solutions. The reader wants to know the author’s perspective on the problem at hand, and their recommended course of action based on the evidence presented.
• Practical and feasible – the brief is an action-oriented tool targeting decision makers. It must provide arguments based on what is happening in practice, and make recommendations that are realistic and plausible for the target audience to implement.
• Succinct – decision-makers do not usually have the time or inclination to read an in-depth argument on a particular problem, however serious. Briefing papers do not therefore typically exceed 3 000 words. You must complete yours in just 2 000 words!
• Understandable – briefing papers use clear and simple language (not the jargon and theoretical concepts of academia). They should provide a well-explained and easy-to-follow argument targeting a generalist but knowledgeable audience.
HSBH3009 International Health Project Page 7
• Accessible – briefing papers use clear descriptive titles and subtitles to facilitate ease of use and guide the reader.
• Promotional – briefing papers use colour, images, and/or illustrative quotes to capture the attention of the reader and create a favourable impression.

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