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University of Minnesota Extension

Systems Approaches for Healthy Communities

Systems approches to healthy communities graphic


Systems Approaches for Healthy Communities is a web-based, professional development program that promotes the integration of policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change approaches with educational strategies. The program was designed for organizations* whose work focuses on health promotion, to help staff understand, reflect, and act on the many factors that influence whether individuals can easily make healthy choices.

*For those unable to participate with an organization, the program has been adapted for individual participation.

Course overview

Five online modules and two toolkits are the primary source of content for the program. Modules average about 60 minutes each, with material presented through activities, examples, stories, reflection questions, and interactive exercises. Participation in the course offers 5 hours of continuing education and has been pre-approved by:

  • The National Commission on Health Education Credentialing

  • The National Board of Public Health Examiners

Participants will learn:

  • Basic terminology.

  • Examples of systems-thinking including the Social-Ecological Model, Spectrum of Prevention, and PSE concepts.

  • Skills to expand your work across many levels to impact policies, systems, and environments.

  • Strategies and tools for strengthening engagement, communicating with partners, and understanding community context.

For more details on the program content, including learning objectives, download the Systems Approaches for Healthy Communities program summary (PDF).

Originally developed in 2015, the program has gone through two pilot phases and a peer review. For the full program history, download the development timeline and 2019 highlights.

Course options

Participate as an organization

Systems Approaches for Healthy Communities was designed to be taken as a group. Organizations, departments, networks and coalitions have all participated. In addition to the online modules and two toolkits, the organizational option includes:

  • Coaching process and coach guide

  • Implementation guide

  • Three online consultations

  • Knowing Your Organization tool

Organizations can start the program at any time that fits their schedule

Cost — $4000 (cap of 200 participants)

Do you have a team smaller than 40 participants? Contact us to discuss how we can customize this program to your team size.

Participate as an individual

If you are unable to participate with an organization or group, the program has been adapted for individual participation. Individual participants will work at their own pace and complete self reflection activities to support learning. Individuals can begin the course at any time. We recommend completing the course in 10-12 weeks.

Cost — $75 per individual participant

Please note the individual option does not include program add-ons from the organizational version including coaching resources, consultations, and the Knowing Your Organization tool. If you have multiple people from your organization who would like to participate, we encourage you to select the organizational option. We can customize this program to your budget and needs.


Reviewed in 2023

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