Understanding Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change

Photo: Clint Adair via Unsplash

Health is created in the places where we live, work, learn, and play. Our ability to make healthy choices is dictated by the conditions of those places. Policy, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) change can influence health by changing the conditions within communities– making the healthy choice the easy choice. PSE changes often stretch beyond the benefits of programs to create population level impacts.

Explore the rich set of resources below to help to grow your community’s capacity to understand and advance policy, systems, and environmental change.

Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change Overview

PSE 101: Building Healthier Communities through Policy, Systems and Environmental Change

Moving from Programs to Policy, Systems, and Environmental Changes

What is Policy, Systems and Environmental Change (PSE)?

Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change Resource Guide

Partnering4Health: Policy, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) Approach to
Improving Access to Healthy Food and Beverage Through Community Food Systems

Policy Change

Policies are written statements created and adopted by organizations, agencies, and stakeholders intended to achieve specific health goals. Policy change is a tool used by communities across the country to improve population health by advancing initiatives that can affect the behaviors of entire populations more efficiently than other tools. For example, a policy that places restrictions on unhealthy food and beverage marketing in schools reduces exposure and consumption of unhealthy food in school cafeterias.

What is Policy?

5 Ways Public Policy Impacts Health

Getting Started with Policy Change

Worksheet: Getting Started with Policy

Increasing Fresh Produce in Kansas City, MO via Urban Agriculture

Utah New Roots Food Access Program

Systems Change

System change involves transforming and redesigning the practices and structures within organizations, institutions or networks to promote better health outcomes. System change addresses problems on a fundamental level and often works hand-in-hand with policy change. An example of a systems change is the creation of a Farm-to-School initiative that creates processes to rebuild healthy food systems in school by serving local produce in the cafeteria and instituting food education opportunities in the classroom.

Systems: Action for PSE Change

Fostering Systems Change

Community Approaches to Systems Change

Food as a Catalyst for Change

Food Procurement as an Opportunity to Improve Local Food Systems

Environmental Change

Environmental change involves transforming the economic, social, or physical contexts in the lived-environment that affect health outcomes. Environmental change strategies are often used in conjunction with other strategies to improve population health. An example of an environmental change would be to increase the number of community garden plots on vacant land to grow community engagement and improve food security. 

Physical Environment: County Health Rankings Model

How does where we live, work, and play affect our health?

What impact does the environment have on us?

Community Success Stories: Rural residents find grassroots solutions to life in a food desert

Authors: Robyn Garratt (Institute for People, Place, and Possibility) and Stacy Wegley (Community Initiatives)