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graphic showing the 6 steps of the spectrum of prevention

Spectrum of Prevention

Informing Policy Change

Sara E. Langworthy, Extension Educator — Children, Youth & Family Consortium and Sarah E. Cronin, Research Assistant — Research and Evaluation

November 2014

"Policy change" refers to the development of programmatic content, messages, or strategies that are aimed at informing how institutional or governmental policies are created, sustained, or changed in an effort to enhance the health and well-being of families.

Efforts to promote policy change may take many forms including:

When evaluating the success of a programmatic effort to inform policy change, it’s important to consider not just a specific policy, but the decision-makers and implementers of policies as well. Check out this video to hear about an example of working at the policy level.

Frequently Asked Questions about Influencing Policy

How is informing policy different than advocacy? How you inform policy if you don't work for the government? These questions and more are answered here: Influencing Policy Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

General Questions to Consider When Planning and Evaluating Policy

  1. Whose health is to be improved as a result of the policy?
  2. What organizations or governing body is responsible for passing or adopting policy?
  3. Who is responsible for adhering to or complying with the policy?
  4. What organization, institution, or governing body is responsible for enforcing the policy?

Tools For Your Work

Below are two tools to use as a starting point for your evaluation efforts. The principles of RE-AIM are integrated into the questions. Please adjust or modify these resources to best suit your needs:


Jilcott, S., Ammerman, A., Sommers, J., & Glasgow, R. E. (2007). Applying the RE-AIM Framework to Assess the Public Health Impact of Policy Change. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 34(2), 105-114.

Related Resources

Child Welfare and Education Learning Community — This collaboration between researchers, practitioners, and policymakers addresses the intersection of child welfare and education systems across three states: Minnesota, Illinois, and North Carolina.

Spectrum of PreventionPrevention Institute — The Spectrum of Prevention was originally developed by Larry Cohen in 1983 while working as director of prevention programs at the Contra Costa County Health Department. It is based on the work of Marshall Swift (1975) in preventing developmental disabilities.

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