Policy change is one way to support community efforts to increase access to healthy food, support active living efforts, and promote commercial tobacco control. Policy change can be a driving force to address health inequities. To be considered a policy, it needs to be 1) in writing, 2) be used to influence and guide decisions, 3) be passed by someone who has the authority to make those decisions, and 4) be at a governmental or organizational level.  These policies can be from a large-scale policy (i.e. county-wide commercial tobacco-free parks) to smaller-scale policy (smoke-free on a small restaurant patio.)  

Written policies are more likely to weather leadership or management changes and promote consistent implementation and enforcement. Written policies can help everyone understand both what is expected of them and how the policy will be applied across a community, organization, or department, which in turn can help promote a sense of fairness. Policies that are clearly understood and supported by community members are more likely to be self-enforcing, requiring less resources to monitor.

In Kansas, there are over 3,000 local governments and thousands of organizations that play a significant role in building healthy and prosperous communities. These entities have the authority to develop and utilize policy mechanisms that directly impact the availability of healthy food, active transportation, and spaces free of commercial tobacco, ensuring future decisions are made with community health in mind. Under Kansas law, local governments have the authority to develop and implement a variety of policy levers to improve health within their communities. Likewise, organizations have varying levels of authority to pass policies impacting the health of their employees, clients, and community members.


What are local government policies?

A local government policy is a written action by a local or regional governmental body, including school districts, that is designed to influence and determine decisions. This action can take the form of resolutions, ordinances, MOUs or action on the record at city or county meetings. The key is that the details are in writing with specificity. Local governmental bodies include city councils, county commissions, local park and recreation bodies or municipal planning organizations. Some examples of local government policies include:


An ORDINANCE is a legally enforceable law or rule enacted or adopted by a local governing body that applies to people, activities, and organizations within its jurisdiction. 

Pathways example – HEAL Reno County worked with the City of Nickerson to draft an ordinance prohibiting the use of commercial tobacco and e-cigarettes in public parks and recreational facilities. In 2017, the city passed Ordinance No. 2017-06, which added a section to the city code called “Tobacco and e-cigarette use is prohibited in outdoor recreational facilities in the City of Nickerson, Kansas.”(Nickerson, Kan., Code § 12-112)


RESOLUTION declares a local government body’s commitment to an action, policy, or goal, and can be as short as 1–2 pages.

Pathways example – The Pathways coordinator for Live Healthy Franklin County drafted a “Wellsville Walkability Assessment Final Report and Recommendations – February 2018.” The City of Wellsville, which is a rural municipality (pop. 1,809), passed a resolution approving and adopting this report. The resolution specifically supported implementation of projects identified in the report and indicated that the report was consistent with citywide goals and policies.


LOCAL PLANNING describes the way a local government regulates its community to manage and develop the areas within its boundaries, including ensuring residents are able to buy and grow healthy food, be physically active, and have spaces free from commercial tobacco. One of the primary tools in many local planning activities is ZONING, which refers to the division of city or county land into districts (“zones”) for different uses, such as for open space, residential space, commercial space, agriculture, or other uses.

Pathways example –  Plan Emporia + Lyon County (Plan ELC) is Lyon County’s official comprehensive planning document published in 2017, intended to guide development for the county “for the next 20 years.” Plan ELC contains action items dedicated to connecting people to parks and recreational facilities, creating and improving walking and bicycling infrastructure, and enhancing residents’ access to fresh produce. One way in which Plan ELC uses zoning to address these actions is by encouraging the county to leverage “flex-use” zoning to provide fresh produce retailers where none currently exist. Flex-use zoning loosens the restrictions on land use possibilities in some areas and provides opportunities for the development of fresh food retailers in areas where none exist. Flex-use zones are also located within walking distance from walking, bicycling, and transit networks. Plan ELC can be found here.


Agreements between parties can take a few forms.  To have a strong agreement for purposes of Pathways work, the language must include: 1) specificity on roles and responsibilities of the parties, 2) details about how funding will be used, and 3) linkage to Pathways priorities. The types of agreements can include the following: A MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING (MOU) is an informal written statement outlining the preliminary understanding of the parties who plan to enter into a contract or another type of agreement. An INTERLOCAL AGREEMENT is when two or more cities, counties, or townships enter into a contract to perform any governmental service. A USE AGREEMENT is a formal contract describing the terms and conditions to which those entering a contract agreement.

Pathways example – On January 14, 2019, the Pathways community policy group for Energize Chanute! and the City of Chanute entered into an MOU regarding the establishment and maintenance of bicycle lanes in Chanute. The Community Policy Group will provide a plan of lane location and design, as well as funding for street markers and other infrastructure costs. The City of Chanute will manage the project, provide labor, and guarantee maintenance of the lanes for at least 10 years. The MOU outlined clear, concrete responsibilities for each party related to the project and specific details around the use of Pathways funds.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT APPROVAL may occur during a public meeting where governmental officials vote to approve a specific action. This approval should be captured in the meeting minutes and available for public review under the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

Pathways example – In December 2016, the Healthy Bourbon County Action Team grant coordinator spoke to the Fort Scott City Commission, seeking the city’s collaboration in developing a strategic plan to promote walking and bicycling infrastructure in Fort Scott. A motion was made by a city official to collaborate on this plan, which was then approved unanimously by the rest of the commission. This approval kick-started the process that ultimately led to the citywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, published in 2017.


What are organizational policies?

Like a local government policy, an organizational policy is a written action by an organizational body, like a private hospital, childcare center or restaurant, that is designed to influence and determine decisions. This action can take the form of worksite policies, contracts, board of director actions or memorandums of understanding.  The key is that the details are in writing with specificity. Some examples of organizational policies include:

Restaurant Tobacco Free Property Policy and Procedure: Several restaurants created a smoke and tobacco free environment policy that covers the restaurant grounds. The policy clearly states that tobacco and e-cigarettes are not allowed on the property, including in parked cars. The procedures outline how the policy will be communicated to staff and patrons.  See for example the Ranchito Café in Kearny County.

Active Meeting Policy: Some workplaces outline specific situations when activity is incorporated into meeting. For example, William Newton Hospital in Cowley County lists the type of physical activity and minutes required for standing at each meeting. The policy specifically says employees cannot be prohibited from standing during meetings.

Food guidelines for meetings: Organizations can specifically list food guidelines for purchased food at meetings. For example, the NCCC-Ottawa Food and Beverage Guidelines lists out specific requirements for different types of food, including beverages, snacks and catered/prepared meals.

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      Map of Pathways Communities with Policies

      This resource shares the counties that have passed community or written policies as part of the Pathways effort.

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