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What is Policy, System and Environment change?

Policy Change

Policy Change: A formal written statement of position, decision or course of action such as laws, ordinances, resolutions, mandates, guidelines, regulations or rules. Policies are often intended to reach large groups of people and can sometimes have unintended consequences.


  • A tax on unhealthy food (soda tax)
  • A law allowing residents to plant community gardens on vacant lots
  • The USDA Smart Snacks rule for all foods sold in schools
  • Delaware Public Health Person-in-Charge Food Safety rule
  • School wellness policies
  • Joint-use agreements with school districts to ensure playgrounds are open to the community on weekends and over school breaks
  • Purchasing cooperatives for corner store owners to make healthy foods more profitable


Systems Change

Systems Change: An organizational procedure such as a process or method, involving the infrastructure of an organization or community; can involve resource allocation, job duties, etc. Policy changes normally create systems changes


  • Healthy cooking training for church kitchen staff (baking versus frying)
  • Teaching locally grown produce procurement to institutional buyers
  • The development and implementation of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Plans (HACCP) or food safety plans
  • The adoption of guidelines for “healthy” meetings by worksites


Environmental Change

Environmental Change: Physical, observable changes in the built, economic and/or social


  • School and community gardens
  • Farmers’ markets (intentionally placed for convenience and access)
  • Municipal planning projects to ensure better pedestrian and bicycle access to main roads and parks
  • The installation of water fountains in a hospital lobby to increase drinking water access for hydration
  • Mobile farmers ‘ markets that accept SNAP benefits to eliminate transportation barriers
  • A family member learned about healthy eating and as a result the family is now eating healthy

Seven Steps for Policy, Systems and Environmental Change: Worksheets for Action 

Step 1: Engage – Build Partnerships and Engage the Community

Step 2: Scan – Perform Environmental Scans

Step 3: Assess – Identify Priority Areas

Step 4: Review – Assess Feasibility of Interventions

Step 5: Promote – Promote Awareness, Communicate and Educate

Step 6: Implement – Take Action

Step 7: Evaluate – Measure Your Success