PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES: Policy change is a lengthy and complex process. Thus, it is important to articulate hypothesized causal pathways between advocacy activities and policy change outcomes and to identify and monitor early indicators of progress toward policy change.
INTERVENTION APPROACH: The Kansas Health Foundation supports grantee efforts to address the public health effects of obesity through evidence-based policy, systems, and environmental change interventions. To build support for policy, systems, and environmental changes in schools, workplaces, and health care and retail settings, grantees mobilize communities, educate government policy makers, and advocate with organizational decision makers.
EVALUATION METHODS: To understand whether early outcomes from obesity-prevention advocacy efforts predict interim outcomes related to eventual policy change, we conducted surveys of the general public and of opinion leaders in Kansas, which were designed to measure components of Kansas Health Foundation's theory of change. We then used structural equation modeling to test the theory of change's underlying relationships by using support for obesity prevention policies as the outcome.
RESULTS: Our findings supported the hypothesized model: perceptions of obesity as a serious community problem influence beliefs about causes of the problem. Beliefs about causes predict beliefs about who is responsible for the solution to the problem, which in turn predicts support for obesity prevention policies.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC HEALTH: Evaluators of advocacy for policy change interventions can use this approach to monitor proximal changes in public and opinion leader beliefs related to eventual policy change and to determine whether efforts are likely to be successful or need to be adapted or abandoned.