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Explore programs and policies that work!

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Consider the impact

As you choose between different strategies, think about their potential impact. Use your goal to measure your options. (Hint: What Works for Health is a go-to tool for considering the impact.)

Example Goal:

Get more healthy foods into schools.


Questions to ask:

  • Does each option address our goal?
  • What does the literature tell us about the impact each option will have on the amount of healthy food in schools?

You’ll also want to consider other dimensions of impact:

  • Human impact. Who will benefit from each strategy? Who will be harmed by each strategy? How?
  • Equity impact. How does each strategy affect those with the greatest needs in your community?
    Who should benefit?
    What Works for Health’s disparity rating considers gaps in outcomes among:
    • Socio-economic groups
    • Racial or ethnic groups
    • Geographic areas (i.e., urban vs. rural)

The Racial Equity Impact Assessment tool can help you consider how different racial and ethnic groups will likely be affected by a proposed decision. These assessments are best conducted during the decision-making process. Example use: Iowa and Connecticut lawmakers have used racial and ethnic impact assessments to examine the likely impacts of proposed sentencing laws.

  • Level of impact. Will the strategy impact individual people, organizations, or the community as a whole? Will it change the environment or existing rules to support healthy choices? We like to use the Intervention Planning Matrix to map each strategy's level of impact.
  • Length of impact. Will the strategy create short-term change? Can you sustain it over a long period of time?
  • Unintended impact. Are there potential unintended impacts that could result from each strategy? How would you avoid them? For example, there is strong evidence that higher tobacco taxes reduce smoking rates. However, smokers with low incomes will feel a negative financial impact. One way to lessen this unintended impact is to make cessation support available in low-income communities at low or no cost.

Program v. Policy. Programs and policies are both important components of community change. Programs generally provide specific services for people in need. Policies create the standards for how a community or specific organization will operate.

  • Policies that change the environment or social norms have the potential to benefit more people. These policies make the healthy choice the easy choice.
  • Programs also have policy considerations. What policies do you need to support the program now and in the future?