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Historic Policy Change through a System Approach of Health Promotion

San Bernardino County, CA
Program Year: 2019

Health education traditionally focuses on changing individual behavior. However, education alone is limited in its impact on population health outcome. With the overarching goal of reducing obesity through nutrition education, the San Bernardino County Public Health Department (SBCDPH) nutrition team took on the specific task of educating the harmful health effects of sugary drinks among children. Instead of a program per se, the nutrition team took an innovative approach of health promotion which incorporated multi-level interventions and cross-sector collaboration. The System Approach integrates policy, system and environmental interventions with education strategies to promote water consumption and reduction of sugary drinks. The ultimate goal was to facilitate effective policy development and decision making which would support the education interventions. The System Approach led to 9-month-long multi-faceted interventions overlaid by five months of intensive education. It resulted in influencing our target audience, namely parents and children to adopt the desired health behavior. It also created conversations with restaurant owners about changing their menu to serve healthy beverage as the default drinks to children. With the assistance of a Health Coalition, the city policymakers were presented with data which ultimately led them to support a policy that encourages the desired health behavior. Our experience exemplifies a successful adoption of the System Approach that impacts not just the children and parents that received the education but also the 25,000 residents in the city. Policy creates sustainable changes in the setting, environment or system in which people live, eat, play, and work.

Ms. Sabrina Sgambelluri
Executive Secretary II