Co-trainers D.J. Wilson and Cheryl Sbarra (MA Association of Health Boards) work with communities to improve health through local policies.
Why focus on local policies to promote community health?
“It is unreasonable to expect that people will change their behavior easily when so many forces in the social, cultural, and physical environment conspire against such change.” — Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences
There are many reasons. Policy change can help make the healthy choice the easy choice for community members. Policies can increase access to healthy food and active living. Policies can also serve to limit access to tobacco and other addictive substances. In their report, Promoting Health: Intervention Strategies from Social and Behavioral Research, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences states, “It is unreasonable to expect that people will change their behavior easily when so many forces in the social, cultural, and physical environment conspire against such change.”
Policy can institutionalize such change; it is evidence-based and population-based with a broad scope. Local policies are easier to pass than state or federal laws because they usually don’t get opposition from professional lobbyists (except for recent tobacco regulations!). Local policies that pass generally receive broad community support and compliance rates are often higher because of local enforcement.
Local policy can be mandatory (e.g., rules, handbooks, ordinances, bylaws, regulations or executive orders) or voluntary (e.g., resolutions or worksite wellness policies).
11 Key Elements of Policy Work
- Shared vision
- Community assessment and information gathering
- Coalition development
- Policy education
- Community education
- Educating decision-makers
- Opposition research
- Media outreach
- Understand compromise options
- Public hearings
- Post-enactment strategy
During their recent training in Northampton MA on the topic of Better Health Through Local Policies, Cheryl and D.J. elaborated on the above ideas, as well as practical tips for educating local officials, dealing with opposition, public hearings and real-life case studies focusing on actual tobacco policies enacted in MA towns.
Want to learn more about creating better health through local policies?
D.J. and Cheryl’s next free training for the Community Health Training Institute is being offered on December 4, 2014 in Westborough MA. Learn more and register here.
If you would like to learn more about this type of training, please use our Training Inquiry Form to request more information. We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you soon at a training!
Change Lab Solutions offers many excellent resources on the topic of community health policy. Topics include including enforcement of wellness policies, complete streets policy and food systems resolutions.
Was this article helpful to you? Use the social buttons below to share on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+