Policy, Systems and Environmental Changes (PSEs): How PSEs influence School Wellness


Policy, Systems, and Environmental Changes or PSEs are new strategies for implementing positive wellness interventions into schools and communities. Individual choices are important for health outcomes, but often are not enough to enact long lasing positive health behaviors. Having healthy options available makes it easier for students to make healthy choices on a consistent basis.

Policies are interventions that create or change laws, ordinances, resolutions, mandates, regulations or rules. Examples of this type of intervention might include placing taxes on sweetened beverages and establishing building codes prohibiting fast food restaurants within a half mile radius of public schools.

System changes or interventions affecting all elements of an organization, institution or a system. These interventions result in new activities influencing large proportions of people the organization or institution serves and employs. An example is establishing nutrition standards for foods sold in vending machines.

Environmental interventions are physical, observable changes in the built, economic and social environment. Some examples are prominent displays and marketing to highlight new healthy menu items, providing walking trails to and from schools and increasing positive attitudes among teachers in providing physical activity breaks.

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Mary Ann McFarland, Southwest District Area Coordinator for Family Nutrition Program, Virginia Cooperative Extension


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Guidance: Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program, Pages 16-22

School Fundraisers: Positive Changes in Foods Sold, But Room for Improvement, Issue Brief, Healthy Eating Research, March 2016, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, prepared by Lindsey Turner, PhD and Yvonne McElrath, MSA.

Strategies for Supporting Quality Physical Education and Physical Activity in Schools, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta GA.

What is Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change? Communities Putting Prevention to Work, Cook County Department of Public Health, Website: www.cookcountypublichealth.org