Policies are enacted when actions need to be taken in order to fix a problem. Problems exist when there is a gap between the way things are and the way things should be. There are five main steps when creating a policy.
Step one is problem definition and agenda settings. This first step in the policy process is to convince other people that a problem exists, and is possible to fix. Once a group of people become aware of a problem, the idea becomes a policy agenda, meaning an issue that exists in society. At this point, supporters want to expand the public’s knowledge and interest on the problem by using TV, newspapers, internet, and any other form of media. The next step is the formulation of alternatives. Solutions to the problem are thought out in this step. People from all different backgrounds come together to solve a problem. Groups could include experts in a field, interest groups, or anyone interested in the issue at hand. Phase 3 is policy adoption. Tools are chosen to fix the problem, such as money, grants, loans, tax breaks, fines, and programs. Federal departments are concerned with this phase. The DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) are involved when a policy affects human health and/or provides essential services to improve the health of Americans. The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) provides natural resource leadership. USDA involves itself with policies that ensure access to nutritious food and provide dietary guidance to Americans. SNAP (Supplemental Nutritious Assistance Program) is an example of a policy within the USDA. The fourth step is policy implementation. This happens when the best solution has been found, the tools have been chosen, and the policy fits the needs and wants of the intended clientele. The policy is put into action during this phase. Next the policy must be evaluated to see if it is working correctly. Surveys and tests are conducted to see if people are happy, or if there are any alternatives to the policy that could be changed.
Policies play a big role in nutrition and food system reform. Polices are constantly changing due to new markets, scientific and technological breakthroughs, and consumer attitudes. The American Dietetic Association is addressing current policies related to good systems and nutrition. An example is child nutrition, which maintains local school wellness policies; improve nutritional food availability to children during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Another example is food safety, which implements ideas/actions to overcome threats of food insecurity. This addresses food access, consumer protections, food information such as labeling ingredients and location.
Policy can change the overall health care system as well. In terms of obesity, food production and transportation innovations have reduced costs of pre-made meals and processed foods, which is directly linked to increased calorie intake, which is a major factor behind obesity. Policies could be made to limit the amount of processed foods available to children in school. The Coordinated School Health Program is a policy that promotes healthful behaviors at school. It focuses on health education, physical education, health services, nutritional services, counseling and social services, healthful school environments, and health promotion of staff and family. Most policies dealing with obesity usually involve children because its important to focus on prevention at a young age, kids food habits are still malleable, and children are easier to round up because there all in school.