This is the first time we’ve brought up pillar #7! Policy change is more non-personal than the other pillars, but it is just as important. This pillar targets the community and National policies that incentivize our behaviors either for or against healthy living. This is where Workplace Health incentives, sugar taxes, and CDC guidelines come in!
Community. Because the most effective Health changes start at the community level, I will start there too. Last week we talked about types of relationships and the impact that they can have on your health. The fourth big relationship was community and/or work relationships. In other words, your Social Circles. I like to call this the silent hand. While many policies guide us without us knowing, I will encourage you to take the initiative to create policies or contracts with in your groups does incentivize healthy living.
For example, you could talk to your boss about Workplace Health initiatives, start a local community health group through CCHS and make new friends, or start a competition with your church to see if you can walk the most miles each week where the winner gets a prize!
Creating Policy Change
Existing policies play a major role in the health of the population from the local to national level. Whether it is your community's educational budget or accessibility to health services in your state, policies have the potential to encourage or discourage healthy behaviors. Policies can impact a person's social determinants of health , which is considered “the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age”. 1 Social Determinants of Health has shown to contribute to approximately 80% of health outcomes2 and is linked to the onset of type II diabetes,3 therefore there is importance in addressing these issues through the lens of policy change.
Policy change requires cooperation between politicians, institutions, researchers, and community members alike. Local and national governments are responsible for implementing policy change; however, policy change is unlikely to occur unless there is a driving factor for policy change. This driving factor might come from new research, social pressure, political party transitions, or lobbying from large institutions. 4 For example, a new member of your town board might have recently been elected. This can create a “policy window” where this new government member is looking to stand out in the community and demonstrate that they can help. This can be an opportune time to organize in your community and push for the policies your community needs!
3. Béland D, Katapally TR. Shaping policy change in population health: Policy entrepreneurs, ideas, and institutions. Int J Heal Policy Manag. 2018;7(5). doi:10.15171/ijhpm.2017.143
2. Hood CM, Gennuso KP, Swain GR, Catlin BB. County Health Rankings: Relationships between Determinant Factors and Health Outcomes. Am J Prev Med. 2016;50(2). doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2015.08.024
1. About Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published August 26, 2020. Accessed August 1, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/socialdeterminants/about.html
4. Hill-Briggs F, Adler NE, Berkowitz SA, et al. Social determinants of health and diabetes: A scientific review. Diabetes Care. 2021;44(1). doi:10.2337/dci20-0053