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Eval Program Plann. 2012 Aug;35(3):407-16. doi: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2012.01.002. Epub 2012 Jan 13.

Evaluation of public health professionals' capacity to implement environmental changes supportive of healthy weight.

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Department of Public Health, Food Studies, and Nutrition, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA.


Community-based interventions to promote healthy weights by making environmental and policy changes in communities may be an important strategy in reversing the obesity epidemic. However, challenges faced by local public health professionals in facilitating effective environmental and policy change need to be better understood and addressed. To better understand capacity-building needs, this study evaluated the efforts of the Healthy Start Partnership, a university-community project to promote healthy weights in young families in a rural eight-county area of upstate New York. Qualitative interviews (n=30) and pre/post surveys (n=31) were conducted over three years of the intervention. Challenges faced by partners significantly slowed progress of environmental interventions in some communities. First, many partners did not feel their "regular" jobs afforded them sufficient time to do community work. Second, many partners did not feel they had the personal political power to work on broader environmental, policy, or system change issues. Third, facilitating and policy change and reaching out to non-traditional partners, like businesses, required developing a new set of public health skills. Fourth, the long-time frame of environmental and policy work meant that many efforts would exceed the grant period. Building local public health leaders for environmental and policy change necessitates that these challenges are acknowledged and addressed.

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