Moving Towards a Policy, Systems and Environmental (PSE) Change Framework for Extension Professionals

Primary author: Clea Rome
Co-author(s): Laura Ryser; Carrie Backman; Debra Hansen

Primary college/unit: Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences
Campus: Clallam County


The Policy, Systems and Environmental (PSE) change framework has emerged in the last decade as new way of approaching difficult and layered public health problems, including obesity, diabetes and cancer. Rather than focusing solely on individual choices, the PSE approach acknowledges the “interrelated, dynamic, and adaptive factors” (Lyn 2013) that influence an individual’s health. Public health practitioners are increasingly addressing not only an individual’s choices, but the broader landscape that influences personal behavior, including the policies, systems, and environments (PSE) that shape those behaviors (Leeman et al. 2015).

Beyond the public health sector, the PSE approach is a useful framework to guide the work of Extension leaders in many program areas to create long-term change. For example, the complex issues that Extension community development professionals work on require a framework that utilizes the University’s strength to conduct applied research for data-driven solutions at the local level. The authors have found that applying a PSE framework to community development work through Extension provides leverage points that create population-level benefits across many sectors. Extension faculty and staff have played a critical role in facilitating the process for desirable PSE change outcomes for community development through six key activities: (a) assessing the social and political environment; (b) engaging, educating, and collaborating with key stakeholders; (c) identifying and framing the problem; (d) utilizing available evidence; (e) conducting research to identify needed data; (f) identifying PSE solutions; and (g) building support and political will (Lyn et al. 2013).