Policy, Systems and Environmental Change Promotes Health in a Big Way
NDSU Extension family and community wellness agents and specialists are working to help North Dakotans live a full and vibrant life. One approach they use is to create policy, systems and environmental change.
The policies, systems and environment in our communities and state have a heavy influence on the choices people make every day, even if they don’t realize it. Communities can achieve broad health objectives by ensuring that existing policies, systems and environments support health goals and that healthy choices are accessible by all.
“When our policies, systems and environment promote health, it becomes easier to do the things that are good for us without having to think about it,” says Jan Stankiewicz, NDSU Extension community health and nutrition specialist.
With strong local partnerships across the state, NDSU Extension is poised to help communities make policy, system and environmental changes that promote positive health outcomes.
Depending on the specific health objectives, NDSU Extension has partnered with park districts, schools and after school programs, local farmers markets and other organizations to help communities and organizations adopt policies, redesign procedures and transform contexts that affect health outcomes.
One example of a policy, systems and environment initiative is NDSU Extension’s work helping farmers markets become authorized retailers for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
As more farmers markets and farm stands in the state have started accepting SNAP benefits, more North Dakotans are able to access fresh, local food.
Another example is the Smarter Lunchrooms movement. NDSU Extension has worked with school administrators, food service directors and staff to make simple changes to lunchrooms that encourage students to make nutritious food and beverage choices, and decrease food waste.
“These changes are effective and sustainable, and can be low- to no-cost,” says Stankiewicz. “It makes sense for communities to implement changes that encourage and promote health. It takes time and effort to change systems, but the collaborative nature and significant impact make it a good return on investment.”
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