After you have identified partners and built a solid partnership with community stakeholders, do your homework! Conduct an environmental scan to determine what actions should be taken within the broad health issue you want to address. The environmental scan allows you to identify gaps, trends and factors affecting the political, social, economic and legal context to help you understand the drivers of PSE change.

Scan the environment by researching grey literature (non-commercial or academic literature), program websites, legislation, funding announcements and other resources. Use the environmental scan to identify additional partners as well as supporting or opposing stakeholders you could bring to the table.



The following tips may be helpful as you consider how to find data during your environmental scan:

  • To start, identify existing PSE change efforts around the health issue to set the stage for developing a realistic PSE agenda (sometimes called a policy agenda).
  • Scan the political context – This can help you understand the relationship between stakeholders of the issue you want to address. Look for grey literature such as reports, white papers, government documents or any non-academic publications.
  • Scan the economic context – Look at funding announcements and find out the types of grant proposals that are getting funded and who is funding them.
  • Scan the social context – Think about social determinants of health such as housing, education and income and how demographic factors play a role in the health issue.
    • Identify nontraditional partners and stakeholders in these sectors and follow a “health in all policies” approach.
  • Scan the legal context – Look at trends related to proposed and passed legislation to understand windows of opportunity, challenges associated with the legislative process and create the potential for successful advocacy.
  • Consider public opinion and identify community champions. Conduct key informant interviews or hold community meetings to gather the information you may still need to narrow your focus and set the stage for a successful PSE change initiative.
  • Summarize the data (community assets and challenges) revealed in the environmental scan and determine if PSE change is feasible.
  • Use data revealed in the environmental scan to identify the goal and determine the level of the PSE change effort (institutional, local, state or federal).


Below is a list of resources focused on Step 2 of the PSE change approach (perform environmental scans):

  • 500 Cities: Local Data for Better Health – This website, a collaboration between CDC, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the CDC Foundation, provides “city- and census tract-level small area estimates for chronic disease risk factors, health outcomes, and clinical preventive service use for the largest 500 cities in the United States.” You can use the data to identify areas of greatest need and guide funding decisions.
  • Cancer Among American Indians and Alaska Natives– This CDC site provides reliable information on cancer incidence and mortality among AI/AN people.
  • Community Tool Box provides guidance on conducting key informant interviews. See also SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to explore both internal (strengths and weaknesses) and external (opportunities and threats) factors influencing your coalition’s work.
  • from the Library of Congress “provides access to accurate, timely, and complete legislative information for Members of Congress, legislative agencies, and the public.” Search for laws and bills by number or keyword.
  • Foundation Center is a subscription-based online database of more than 140,000 grantmakers with search filters to help find potential funding sources and help understand funding trends.
  • From Start to Finish: How to Permanently Improve Government Through Health in All Policies – This toolkit, developed by ChangeLab Solutions, highlights Health in All Policies—the process of improving health by incorporating health considerations into policymaking. It includes best practices and lessons learned from community leaders.
  • Health in All Policies: A Guide for State and Local Governments from Public Health Institute provides guidance on using collaborative approaches to improve population health by embedding health considerations into decision-making processes across a broad array of sectors.
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT) allows you to search for “research projects funded by the NIH as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Administration for Children and Family (ACF), and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)” to help you understand funding trends.
Download Step 2 Worksheet
Download Relevant Templates
Read more from ACS PSE Guide