Roadmap for State Program Planning: Collect Resources and Data

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Research and Assess

“Health problems are heavily influenced by societal policies and environments that in some way either sustain the behaviors and practices that contribute to the problems or fail to foster healthier choices that could prevent the problems.” (from Policy and Environmental Change: New Directions for Public Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Association of State and Territorial Directors of Health Promotion and Public Health Education, 2001.) (

This statement makes a case for developing heart disease and stroke prevention interventions that will ultimately lead to positive changes in your state’s health-related policies and environments.

The first step is to educate staff about the state’s current polices and systems level supports related to cardiovascular issues. The staff should then begin to increase knowledge of the state’s HDS-related policies and environments.

What to Do

Researching and assessing a state’s policies, systems, and environments is an on-going process throughout the life span of the program.

To assess priority policy areas for intervention, you should first identify existing policy and environmental supports at the state level that could affect communities (e.g., state legislation that may affect HDSP-related policies in worksites or agency policies that may affect implementation of nationally accredited guidelines).

The assessment should—

  • Identify elements of the systems and environments that can be modified.
  • Access the needs of general and priority populations.
  • Identify related HDS risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, tobacco use, diabetes, and obesity.
  • Although assessment initially identifies state-level policies and systems level supports, additional assessments can be conducted to identify policies in health care, work sites, and communities.

How to Do It

The Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention recommends beginning the assessment with state and local policies and then considering organizational and regional policies. The Internet is a great research tool. There are a number of sites dedicated to health policy such as The Council of State Governments, and the American Heart Association. See the Resources section for a more inclusive list of Web sites.

Much research can be done in conjunction with partners: state agencies, health related agencies and organizations, state government, state volunteer agencies, business groups/coalitions, etc. Partners can help identify legislative and organizational policies important in addressing heart disease and stroke and assist in focusing efforts on policy and systems changes to address gaps.

Once the assessment is complete, collaborate with partners to build a network of state contacts involved in HDS policy issues. State health task force and study reports provide useful information to create an understanding of policies and systems level supports. Partners may also have staff with health policy expertise that can search out legislative policy initiatives and provide analysis and technical assistance to understand their implications.

Once the assessment is complete, identify areas where new policies are needed or where existing policies can be modified. Activities should then be planned accordingly.

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