The purpose of public policy is not to simply dictate behavior or establish rules, regulations, practices, and procedures. Public policy is also a means of providing and disseminating information, and as such the provision of information is a goal of public policy. The role of public policy in the provision of information is two-fold. Public policy not only dictates the information which is in question – it also often dictates the way in which the information is provided. There are two very important contexts in which the regulation and/or provision of information is a goal of public policy – public health and public safety.

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Though these seem closely related, they are nevertheless two distinctly different areas of consideration. In terms of public health, the regulation and provision of information is crucial for [ ] reasons. Primarily the provision of information serves a two-fold purpose. First, providing information to the public is a means of mitigating existing problems. Second, providing information is intended to serve as a means of preventing future problems. Public health can be viewed as a context in which consumers are vulnerable, since “vulnerability can be either physical or psychological” (Rinaldo 107). One’s mind might jump, and rightly so, to issues like epidemics, such as West Nile in the southern states or scenarios like the SARS outbreak several years ago. However, issues like sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or other socially communicable diseases like HIV (transmittable through the sharing of needles) represent other venues in which public health is at risk and where public policy plays a role in both mitigation and prevention. How the information is presented to the public is important, as it is important to present such information in a non-judgmental way that engenders dialogue and encourages the public to seek out treatment and/or prevention. Therefore, it is important for public policy to outline the best information to address the issue AND guide the way in which the information is presented to the public.

Public safety, which is related to public health, is another area in which the public is susceptible to certain vulnerabilities and is therefore a venue in which public policy is important. For example, significant portions of the population utilize public transportation, and there are several issues concerning personal and public safety which can arise in that context. Policy which creates awareness regarding those issues is crucial to making consumers cognizant of those issues; in order to make smart decisions regarding the use of public transportation. However, much like public health, it is extremely important to make sure that these messages are expressed with sensitivity. Furthermore, public policy and its communication in that regard also send a message to people who would exploit vulnerable populations in that context that the authorities are aware and are ‘arming’ citizens with information.

Both of these venues are also related to consumer privacy, which is a significant issue regarding vulnerability, especially as a result of heavy technology use (Kauffman, Lee, Prosch, & Steinbart, 2011). For example, an individual who suspects that they might have contracted HIV may wish to avoid public stigma, so privacy is crucial. Consequently, policy must also reflect and respect this need for privacy in terms of regulation and information provision. Therefore, the goal of public policy must be two-fold – it must prescribe not only the information (the content) but also how that content is communicated (regulation). The effectiveness and success of protecting public health and safety and consumer privacy depend on this combination.