Public policy decisions underlie society's response to current animal health issues ranging from emerging diseases and public health threats to food safety concerns and sustainable animal agriculture strategies. Despite strong calls for "science-based" decisions, animal health policy most commonly emerges at the interface of science and politics. Too often scientists' disdain for politics limits their involvement in formulating policy. By contrast, epidemiologists are ideally qualified to bring scientific skills to complex policy issues through analytical, macro-epidemiological approaches that consider the economic, legal, and cultural context of policy issues as well as the biological and medical aspects. Risk analysis provides a systematic approach to evaluating animal health issues and comparing policy options. Capturing these opportunities for applied epidemiology requires an understanding of the policy-making process as well as the basic principles of epidemiology. Furthermore, epidemiology training programs must incorporate communications skill building and experiential learning opportunities in a team environment.