AbstractsPolitical Science

A political analysis of policy to reduce the burden of suicide in Sri Lanka

by Melissa Pearson

Institution: University of New South Wales
Department: International Studies
Year: 2014
Keywords: Evidence-informed policy; Policy analysis; Suicide; Sri Lanka; Pesticides
Record ID: 1052143
Full text PDF: http://handle.unsw.edu.au/1959.4/54267


Suicide is a global public health problem that is largely a problem within the Asian region. Suicide in Sri Lanka attracted attention due to the high numbers of deaths recorded from the 1990s onwards. The majority of these deaths were due to intentional ingestion of pesticides, commonly found within households. Suicide and self-poisoning continue to be one of the main causes of admission to hospital and one of the leading causes of death. In the late 1990’s Sri Lankan authorities took proactive steps to address the growing problem of suicide. The incidence of suicide-related mortality almost halved in a ten year period between 1995-2005. This drop in the incidence has been linked, in particular, to regulatory action on access to the most toxic pesticides. This research examined important aspects of how and why these decisions were made and the influences on the decision making process. It explored inter-related policymaking concepts of context, processes, evidence, actors and content utilising mixed methods. These included case study methodology, systematic review and evidence synthesis, meta-narrative analysis, and stakeholder analysis. The research also evaluated future policy options by applying policy analysis methodologies. By following a specific policy decision, the research found that there was a complex interaction of factors that transformed during four phases of policymaking. However these factors contributed to developing building blocks for evidence informed policymaking in the later phases. The research contributed to understanding the central role researchers and epistemic community actors can play in forwarding policy agendas through the instrumental, conceptual and symbolic use of evidence. However this dominance in policy arena also resulted in the isolation of important stakeholder groups and voices from the social sciences. For this community to continue to be effective they need to continue to collaborate, encourage creativity, welcome diversity, and enable participation across sectors, disciplines and countries. The research provides support to efforts to regulate pesticides, encouragement to researchers to engage in the political arena, support for international agencies to consider capacity development of research to policy links in low and middle income countries and provides a range of possible policy options and potential strategies to promote policy change.