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Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity

Policy, Systems, & Environmental Approaches

Given the magnitude of the obesity epidemic, traditional approaches solely targeting individuals cannot meet the challenges of obesity. While well-designed individual level approaches are important, individuals are more likely to sustain healthy lifestyles when the environment in which they live supports those behaviors. Individual level approaches are most effective if they are matched with policy, systems, and environmental change strategies.

Policy, systems, and environmental change strategies help make the healthy choice the easy choice. In leading obesity prevention efforts at the state health department, DNPAO’s work focuses on the use of these strategies.

What is the difference between individual level programs/events and policy, systems, and environmental change strategies?

This table provides examples of traditional health promotion programs/events and policy, systems, and environmental change strategies in a variety of settings. The purpose of providing this comparison is to show how policy, systems, and environmental strategies have a broader reach and encourage sustainable change, and how we can then use existing programs/events to move towards more impactful changes.



Policy, System & Environmental Change

Child Care/ Preschool

Provide healthy tips in parent newsletter

Adopt a policy to provide opportunities for physical activity throughout the day


Host a community bike ride and parade

Implement a Complete Streets policy


Go Red Sunday

Adopt a healthy meal policy

Health Care

Hold a breastfeeding course for new moms

Establish Baby Friendly Hospitals


Family fun night

Develop a joint use agreement


Hold health screenings for staff

Establish a healthy vending machine policy