Workshop on Communicating Population and Health Research to Policymakers
East-West Center • June 2006
Prepare and Present a Policy Memorandum
Introduction of NORPLANT in Thailand’s National Family Planning Program
You have recently been appointed Deputy Minister for Program Development and Budget in
Thailand’s Ministry of Health. In your new position, you are responsible for planning and policy
analysis and for preparing the Ministry’s budget, which includes the budget for the National
Family Planning Program (NFPP).
Each year, your Ministry holds a budget review with the Ministry of Finance to consider what
changes should be made in current programs, as well as the budget implications of these
changes. All major changes in program budgets and subsidies in the health sector must be
approved by the Ministry of Finance.
In recent years, the NFPP launched a pilot project to explore the advisability of adding
NORPLANT to the contraceptives that the government makes available in public hospitals and
clinics. All pilot projects are evaluated before they are expanded nationally. You now have
results from the NORPLANT evaluation, which you will use to develop recommendations for
next year’s budget.
As part of your annual budget review, you are asked to prepare a memorandum for the Finance
Minister and brief him on the results of the pilot introduction of NORPLANT and the issue of
whether the method should be introduced nationally. Specifically, you need to discuss whether
the pilot project provided useful benefits, whether it was cost-effective, and whether NORPLANT
should be introduced at the national level as part of next year’s budget.
You have never briefed the Finance Minister before, but you know that he is primarily interested
in trade and investment and considers public health expenditures to be a drain on the national
Issues to consider
1. What are the essential findings of the pilot project evaluation that the Minister of Finance
should know about?
2. Is it in the government’s interest to continue offering NORPLANT in public hospitals and
3. Do the benefits of offering the method outweigh the costs? Should cost be the primary
4. If the NFFP continues to offer NORPLANT, are there more affordable ways to offer the
method? Can the method be rationed?
5. Who is likely to favor or oppose including NORPLANT in the government’s program? Who is
likely to favor or oppose alternative means of offering or financing the method?
6. What other information would you seek in preparing your memorandum that is not included
in the attached report?
Tips for Writing a Policy Memorandum
1. Ask yourself first: What does this policymaker need to know to make a good decision? Will
he or she want a lot of data, a little data, very specific data?
2. Consider these questions and use or develop the most relevant data selectively:
• How much will the action you are proposing cost>? Overall, 1st year, 2nd year. etc?
• Who will pay?
• What will the benefit be?
• Who will be affected?
3. When presenting options, be sure they are all different and mutually exclusive. You cannot
do more than one of the options. For example:
• Option 1. Government should not do it (whatever it is) at all.
• Option 2. Government should do it on a large scale.
• Option 3. Government should do it on a small scale or partially.
4. Think about your format. Make your memo easy to read—well spaced and clear. Headings,
subheadings, and main points should be obvious (boldface?).
5. Double check your figures. Are all your statements and numbers correct?
6. End on a positive, upbeat, confident note.
Prepare and Present a Policy Memorandum
• What is the issue?
• Why is a decision needed?
• What key information is contained in this memorandum?
• What course of action is recommended?
Brief, essential points that explain how this issue has evolved or become a concern.
• What are the key issues to be addressed by the Minister—one to three at most?
• What position(s) have others taken on these issues?
• What are the plausible courses of action, along with the pros and cons of each?
• What are the risks and potential opposition that might result from choosing an option?
Your recommended course of action and why.