Research and policy decisions as well as program planning and service delivery are often based on observations or perceptions that there is a “problem” to be addressed, an issue about which we know little, or a population that is facing particular challenges.

So what is an issue?  It may sometimes seem obvious that certain issues, such as poverty or family violence, are problems that need to be fixed.  In other cases, such as health care spending, it may not be so clear – or at least not to everyone. But it is important to understand how an issue is defined because that definition will ultimately determine how we respond to the “problem”.

So before launching into research, planning or policy development, it is important to ask ourselves:

  • Is an issue really a problem?
  • How do we know it’s a problem?
  • For whom is it a problem?
  • Are there other ways of looking at the issue?

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

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