Once a policy is implemented, then what?
Healthy and Active Before 5 (HAB45) decided to find out what happens once a new policy is implemented. In November 2017, we invited all organizations who have passed healthy organizational policies, through our Pledge the Practice, Pass the Policy Initiative, to participate in a survey. Staff from 14 organizations responded to the survey, with each of the major model policies of the initiative represented.
Our respondents shared many positive stories about how their organization’s policies have changed the environment for clients and staff.
“Our organization only provides water and/or naturally flavored water. We’ve had occasions in which a community member will bring in a juice or soda, and participants typically know and will kindly speak out on it.”
Healthier vending options, outdoor staff meetings, reduced availability of soda, and a well-supplied lactation room are all examples of these positive changes. In some cases, healthy policies served as a catalyst for further activities to promote the health of young children and families.
“Richmond WIC is very breastfeeding-friendly. The breastfeeding room was a catalyst to start breastfeeding support groups, which are the only free public breastfeeding support groups in West County.”
HAB45 provides mini-grants to organizations who pass healthy policies. Survey respondents reported how funds were spent:
- Activity sets for children
- Water bottles, containers, filters
- Breastfeeding room furniture
- Exercise equipment
- Outdoor Activity fees
- Staff training
- Breastfeeding materials & supplies
- Landscape architect fees
- Bikes to go between offices
- Healthy foods & beverages
Implementing and sustaining positive change
79% of respondents selected “strongly agree” when asked if their organization’s policy had been implemented successfully soon after it passed.
Only 50% of respondents strongly agreed when asked if the changes had been sustained over time.
The most common challenges reflected in the survey responses were related to staff. Staff turnover presents a particular challenge, because new staff may not be fully informed of the healthy policies.
As one respondent at an organization with a healthy food policy said:
“The policy initially had an impact on the beverages and foods that staff brought to potlucks and staff were eating healthier. Now, we have several new staff who I do not feel are aware of the healthy snack policy.”
However, another respondent from an organization that does provide information on their wellness policy to new staff stated,
“The wellness policy gives us a clear way to explain our office rules to new staff.”
Breaking old habits
In addition to challenges related to new staff’s awareness of healthy policies, several respondents mentioned resistance from staff or the difficulty of “breaking old habits” as a barrier to successful implementation.
Respondents described several other challenges, such as lack of enforcement from leadership, the ongoing work of maintaining changes to the physical space, and sustaining changes across multiple sites or programs.
Based on these findings, HAB45 will work with respondents and other partners to deepen the implementation of their healthy policies with additional trainings, enhanced documentation & materials for new staff. We will also provide opportunities to share best practices among agencies who have passed policies.
For their part, survey respondents reported that they are working to promote their policies with partners, consistently bring activities in line with the policies, and further their programming, activities, and internal policies to support the health of all staff and clients.
Thank you to all of the organizations who have passed healthy policies! We realize this work doesn’t end when a policy is passed. We appreciate your ongoing commitment to creating healthier environments for children and families in Contra Costa. If you would like support with implementing an existing policy or passing a new one, please let us know.