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Policy Tracking & Analysis

We track and monitor the impact of policies on community health outcomes. Our evaluation documents the challenges and successes of local, state, federal, and institutional healthy living policies. We work with organizations to develop clear, distinct criteria to measure the development and implementation of policies and offer content analysis of policies that have been developed or adopted at the organizational, community or state levels.  Through content analysis, our policy review aims to determine the extent to which policies have been implemented and enforced, whether policy adoption led to change, and the potential for impact.  We also examine the feasibility of implementing policies, describe how policy strategies have been implemented, assess strengths and weaknesses, and specific factors that have contributed to successful implementation.

Past Projects

 Investigating County Nutrition Standards in California
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Healthy Eating Research Program
Samuels Center received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research Round 8 to investigate the impact of nutrition standards on county facilities that offer foods and beverages to children from lower income communities in 7 California counties. Methods include environmental assessments, policy analysis, in-depth interviews, and an online survey to compare the 7 counties with nutrition standards to seven comparison counties without standards. At the end of the study, we will hold a convening to review the findings and develop policy recommendations. The goal of this research is to strengthen efforts to ensure that children from low resource communities of color have access to healthy foods and beverages served in county facilities.

Development of a Policy Evaluation Toolkit
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
With funding from CDC’s Department of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Prevention, we are developing an evaluation toolkit that will inform, guide, and support obesity, physical activity, and nutrition related policy evaluations for state grantees. As part of the development of the toolkit, Samuels Center conducted a literature review of policy evaluation frameworks, methods and indicators, reviewed available tools for policy evaluation, and conducted key informant interviews with CDC staff and state grantees to highlight challenges, best practices and lessons learned around policy evaluation for inclusion in the toolkit. Samuels Center will be developing webinars to present the toolkit to states and a manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. 

HER School Commissioned Analysis – Water in Schools
University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Healthy Eating Research
The health benefits of water consumption can play a role in obesity prevention. Implemented in July 2011, California SB1413 requires schools to provide free, fresh drinking water to students during meals in all places where meals are served. Through a contract with the University of Minnesota, our research aimed to understand barriers and facilitators that influence the availability of free water in school cafeterias by capturing the perspectives of school administrators, including their opinion about electrolyte replacement beverages (sports drinks) and sugar-sweetened beverages and its influence on water consumption. The research findings provided important information for policy makers and local advocates to ensure effective implementation of SB1413. The method was used to answer these research questions included an online survey with school administrators and school district facilities managers/directors.

Water Availability and Accessibility in California Schools
California Teachers Association

In partnership with California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA), Samuels Center conducted research to understand factors that influence free tap water consumption in public schools. The research methods included focus groups with high school aged students and an online survey with teachers who are members of CTA.  The aim was to understand the facilitators and barriers to water availability and consumption at school as well as student opinions about sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) and their influence on water consumption. Findings were intended to inform strategies to encourage students to drink tap water and to gain support from teachers to promote tap water consumption in schools and for advancing related policies at the local, state, and federal levels.

Evaluation of San Francisco’s Social Marketing Campaign, “Pouring on the Pounds”
California Obesity Prevention Program
In 2010, the California Obesity Prevention Program, partnered with the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) to implement a media campaign called, “Pouring on the Pounds,” which was modeled after a similar campaign in New York. With the larger goal of obesity reduction and prevention, this campaign aimed to motivate San Francisco residents to eliminate or reduce consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages through advertisements on city buses. Samuels Center conducted the evaluation of this campaign by assessing San Franciscan’s awareness and perceptions of the campaign, beverage consumption behaviors, related health opinions, and reactions to policy strategies to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. Primary data were collected during the summer of 2010 from a convenience sample of San Francisco residents, local policymakers, SFDPH staff, and other community stakeholders using intercept surveys, focus groups, and key informant interviews. Most respondents across all three data collection methods saw a strong relationship between consumption of these types of drinks and health outcomes including obesity, and also recognized that environmental factors influence beverage choices.

California School Food Finance Study
California Food Policy Advocates
In 2000, California Food Policy Advocates commissioned Samuels Center to conduct a study of food service finances. District-level food service directors and school business officials from seven representative school districts were interviewed. Findings from the survey describes the financial management of public school food service departments within the responding districts and propose recommendations to help school districts’ food service departments achieve higher nutritional quality while maintaining fiscal soundness.

A Place for Healthier Living
In 2004, Samuels Center, along with PolicyLink and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, authored a policy brief for African American and Latino public officials and policymakers on health disparities related to nutrition and physical activity.

Literature Review and Policy Brief: Preventing Early Childhood Obesity
California WIC Association
In 2005, Samuels Center conducted an extensive literature review for the California WIC Association to provide a profile of overweight among children in California from birth to five years old. This formative research described current approaches to preventing overweight for these children and discusses the potential role of various programs and policies in advancing the goal of prevention. The primary focus was on environmental causes of overweight among young children and the strategies that involve environmental or policy changes that can help prevent overweight in the earliest years. In addition, Samuels Center synthesized the findings from the literature review in a policy brief and assisted in shaping a statewide convening of early childhood experts to discuss the findings and prioritize policy strategies to prevent overweight among young children in California.

Overweight and Unfit Children in California: Analysis of Statewide FITNESSGRAM Data; Diabetes Deaths in California
California Center for Public Health Advocacy
The California Center for Public Health Advocacy commissioned Samuels & Associates to assist in production of two Policy Briefs, one on the level of physical fitness among California youth, the other on mortality rates attributed to diabetes. Each policy brief reported analysis of available data by Assembly district. Samuels Center also authored the scientific background papers to support these briefs and conducted an evaluation of the Briefs’ release to legislators, community members, public health advocates, and school and health officials familiar with the reports and relevant prevention programs. Samuels Center surveyed stakeholders to evaluate the impact and use of the Policy Briefs in program and policy development and to assess what additional information was needed to support nutrition, physical activity, and diabetes and obesity prevention activities.

The Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments
Samuels Center has been integral to the formation and continuing work of the Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments. Founded in January 2001, the Alliance aims to build a social movement focused on making significant improvements in the nutrition and physical activity environment in California. The Alliance serves as an independent voice, autonomous from, yet influential over, government and industry. The Alliance is composed of seven leading California nutrition and physical activity organizations: the Community Adolescent Nutrition and Fitness program (CANFit), California Center for Public Health Advocacy, California Food Policy Advocates, California Project LEAN, California WIC Association, Prevention Institute and The Sarah Samuels Center for Public Health Research & Evaluation within the Alliance, Samuels Center had the unique role of directing all research and evaluation activities.