GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review

GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review

Psychologists continually impact public policy through research that looks to improve education and health. To fully and successfully meet a community’s needs, research that addresses those needs must be presented to state and federal policy makers. With ongoing research and a drive to always improve laws, psychology and lawmaking may coexist. Specifically, analysis of health and education policies, such as that contained in the Texas Grow! Eat! Go! movement and global tobacco control laws are essential in fostering cooperation between psychologists and those who support policy. GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review

GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review

Effectiveness of Head Start

President Lynden B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” campaign, led to the establishment of the Head Start Program in 1965, which as provided educational, social, and health-related services to more than 30 million children (McCoy, Morris, Connors, Gomez, & Yoshikawa, 2106 GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review). It is imperative that early childhood care incorporates school readiness into its’ investment goals. Therefore, the Head Start program must continue to be maintained and improved as it continues on after fifty years.

However, there has been a report of mixed evidence for the program’s overall efficiency and a lack of research on the positive or negative external influences, such as community setting or teacher education, that may occur in relation to the policy. Previous research on the Head Start program has analyzed its’ usefulness on low-income, urban environments which has lead to an under-representation of rural communities that also utilize the Head Start program. McCoy et al. (2016) used data from the Head Start Impact Study to consider the program’s variations in impact on different center locations, specifically urban or rural communities. GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review

Prior research has shown that Head Start quality has led to better academic outcomes for children, but ecological sources of impact variation have yet to be studied (McCoy et al., 2016). The present study aimed to test the ways in which urban centers versus rural centers predicted differentiating impacts on language and literacy outcomes for children in the Head Start programs. The population and sample size included 3,503 children from 317 random-assignment sites, with an average age of 4.04 years old (McCoy et al., 2016).

The children were chosen based on racially diverse factors and if they came from mostly single-parent households or homes where one or more parent did not complete high school. Due to the participants’ young ages, parents were provided informed consent forms and contact with the children’s teachers was approved. Participants were randomly assigned to participate in the Head Start group or the control group and geocodes for each assignment center were allotted to the researchers.

These geocodes were coded and linked using ArcGIS software in an attempt to measure any geographical influences and account for urban or rural disparities (McCoy et al., 2016). Other measurements included early language processing, such as vocabulary and oral comprehension, and pre-literacy outcomes, which includes reading and writing. McCoy et al. (2016 GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review) utilized descriptive analysis and bivariate correlations to characterize the Head Start centers and examine if their locations influenced the learning outcomes of the participants.

The results showed that Head Start center availability was 59% in fully urban neighborhoods, 31% in fully rural neighborhoods, and 11% in both urban and rural environments (McCoy et al., 2016). The experiment results indicated that “Head Start is more effective in increasing children’ receptive vocabulary in urban areas and their oral comprehension in rural areas (McCoy et al., 2016, p. 29).” The study was limited in that it could not measure for all influencing factors toward literacy outcomes, such as classroom environment or teacher characteristics. GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review

Impact of Texas, Grow! Eat! Go!

Health behaviors in children have continued to deteriorate and they are the primary contributors to poor weight status and a sedentary lifestyle. Texas Agrilife Extension, a federal, state, and county funded education outreach organization, and the University of Texas School of Public Health, utilized the Texas Grow! Eat! Go! (TGEG) program to assess the possible impact of school intervention on ethnically diverse, low-income students’ health (Evans et al., 2016).

There are many behaviors that have a negative impact on children’s weight, such a lack of fruit and vegetable consumption, a lack of physical activity, and a regular consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (SSB). As well, parental behaviors can directly influence a child’s weight gain or maintenance, such as access to healthy foods at home, social support, physical activity encouragement, or eating meals together (Evans et al., 2016).

School-based interventions that partner with parents can assist in the prevention of childhood obesity and the adoption of healthy habits. The TGEG study was used to address the gap in literature on combined interventions and provide insight on the impact of gardening, nutrition, and physical activity school programs (Evans et al., 2016 GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review).

The five-year study consisted of a factorial group RCT in which twenty-eight schools were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups. These groups included a Coordinated Approach to School Health (CATCH), CATCH and a school garden intervention, CATCH and a physical activity program, and CATCH with a garden intervention and a physical activity program (Evans, 2016 GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review).

The target population was 3rd graders from ethnically diverse backgrounds and low-income households and they were chosen based on their willingness to volunteer for the program. Data was collected through student self-reports, parent surveys, student height and weight measurements, teacher surveys, and school principal surveys.

The outcome variables included student’s weight status, vegetable and SSB consumption, physical activity, and sedentary behavior and the home influences were measured through food availability, social support for healthy behaviors, parent engagement and behavior modeling (Evans et al., 2016). The produced baseline measurement showed, on average, students do not meet the national guidelines for vegetable intake and physical activity requirements. GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review

The TGEG study was limited in its’ nature of intervention because it was contained to randomized conditions at the school-level. Therefore, a perfect balance of participation across condition groups was not possible. As well, the young age of the study population was another limitation, as their commitment to the program could not rely on maturity levels and self-reports could have been altered.

Tobacco Policies and Perinatal Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends that all countries enforce smoke-free environments in 100% of their nation. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and second-hand smoke exposure is almost as deadly. Policies in the Netherlands regarding tobacco use and control have been in effect for some time, yet their changes or outcomes had yet to be measured as a whole. GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review

Peelen et al. (2016) performed a national quasi-experimental study to uncover the effects of smoke-free legislation in the workplace, tobacco tax increase, and mass media campaigns, on perinatal health. Using the Netherland Perinatal Registry, perinatal health included mortality, preterm birth, and small-for-gestational age (SGA). Using interrupted time series logistic regression analyses, with an adjustment for cofounders, the outcome measures were associated with the timing of Netherland tobacco control policies.

The population and size constituted 2,069,695 singleton births and they were chosen based on origin of birth within the country. The statistical analysis showed that the 2004 policies did not have a significant impact on the measured outcomes. However, the 2008 policy change, which expanded the tobacco band to the hospitality industry and instituted a higher tobacco tax, showed significant decreases in the odds of SGA birth and preterm birth (Peelen et al., 2016 GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review).

The study limitations stem from its inability to perform a randomized controlled trial because it was classified as a governmental public health intervention (Evans et al., 2016). Therefore, the researchers showed bias in choosing a quasi-experimental study in order to evaluate the policy impact. As well, it is important to note that the study is limited in directly associating the causes of perinatal health with tobacco policies. While smoke-free laws are associated with a trend in decreased perinatal outcomes and do lead to larger health benefits overall, the correlation presented in the study is only hypothesized. GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review

Evident Public Policy Change

The articles discussed show examples of public policy in health and education and their impact on the community. The Head Start research analyzed the effectiveness of the program in both urban and rural setting, and it differed from the health studies because it was focused on education. The study results contribute “important knowledge to policy makers and practitioners interested in improving low-income children’s language and literacy skills” (McCoy et al., 2016), p. 42).

TGEG and its’ implementation showed an operative model of public policy change, but it lacked in continuous study. While the results displayed the positive benefits of gardening, nutrition, and physical activity intervention, additional data must be collected to complete the study. Similarly, the public policy change regarding tobacco in the Netherlands was evident in the improvements between initial policy application and its’ later changes. However, more research is needed to truly attribute the decline in perinatal births to the increase in tobacco free environments. GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review

Future Research

Researchers can improve their influence on public policy through the continued presentation of public policy data to state and federal leaders. For example, the Head Start research can allow policy makers to utilize the differences found between urban and rural communities and distance themselves from a one-size fits all model. New policy can enhance the Head Start program to account for the disparities between geographically different communities. Secondly, as national legislation for the Netherlands continues to seek investments for increased tobacco control policies, policy makers can look to psychologists for further aid.

Current policy does not include smoke-free universities, offices, or government facilities and research that is specific to these locations can allow enhanced public policy (World Lung Foundation, 2015). Lastly, the researchers for the TGEG could have improved their impact on public policy by continuing their study and following their participants over time. This would have provided policy makers with more viable data that shows the implementation and completion of policy change can be helpful in battling childhood obesity. In summation, to continue to make on impact on public policy, academic research should direct itself towards analyzing the effectiveness of current policies. This will allow education and health reform to be continuous and specific to the community’s needs. GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review

GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review References

  • Evans, A., Ranjit, N., Hoelscher, D., Jovanovic, C., Lopez, M., Mcintosh, A., . . . Warren, J.   (2016). Impact of school-based vegetable garden and physical activity coordinated health             interventions on weight status and weight-related behaviors of ethnically diverse, low-income students: Study design and baseline data of the Texas, Grow! Eat! Go! (TGEG) cluster-randomized controlled trial. BMC Public Health, 16(1). doi:10.1186/s12889-016-3453-7. GCU PSY-663 Public Policy Article Review
  • McCoy, D. C., Morris, P. A., Connors, M. C., Gomez, C. J., & Yoshikawa, H. (2016). Differential effectiveness of Head Start in urban and rural communities. Journal of    Applied Developmental Psychology, 43, 29-42. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2015.12.007
  • Peelen, M. J., Sheikh, A., Kok, M., Hajenius, P., Zimmermann, L. J., Kramer, B. W., . . . Been, J.    V. (2016). Tobacco control policies and perinatal health: a national quasi-experimental study. Scientific Reports, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep23907
  • World Lung Foundation. (2015). The Netherlands. Retrieved May 31, 2017, from http://www.tobaccoatlas.org/country-data/netherlands/