Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you focus so much on Policies, Systems, and Environments?

Throughout the Wisconsin Health Atlas, you will see references to policies, systems, and environments (PSE) and PSE change. Why are we so focused on PSE? We know that there are many things that affect a person’s behavior, including their individual characteristics and beliefs. But just looking at the person leaves out a lot of the picture. Decisions and actions are also influenced by family and social support, characteristics of the neighborhood that a person lives in, and policies that help define the environment.

For example, think about all the things that influence whether a person can eat fresh vegetables in a given day. First, there are personal factors such as whether the person likes vegetables, or whether they have the money to buy vegetables to eat that day. Maybe they are busy and don’t have time to prepare vegetables at home.

Second, the social environment might affect whether someone wants to eat vegetables—maybe their family members think vegetables are gross, so they tend not to prepare vegetables for family meals.

Next, where someone lives might affect their ability to get fresh vegetables to eat. Maybe the person lives in an area where there aren’t any grocery stores close by that sell fresh vegetables, or maybe the vegetables at the store are too expensive or are not appealing. It could be that the person wants to buy vegetables but doesn’t own a car to drive to the closest grocery store that sells them, 20 miles away.

National, state, and local policies might also affect if a person could buy vegetables. Maybe they would like to grow their own vegetables but their home owners’ association doesn’t allow gardening.

As you can see, there are many things that shape individuals’ health-related behaviors and decisions. That’s why we focus on bringing together information on policies, systems, and environments that shape where people live, work, learn and play to complete the picture that starts with individuals’ health and health-related behaviors.

Because there are so many things outside of an individual that can affect their health, there are many ways that communities can work towards improving the health of their residents. We hope to connect you with the information that you need to find which aspects of your community are ripe for change, choose strategies that will work to promote health in your area, and track your community’s progress towards making Wisconsin the healthiest state.