by Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development
You have probably heard about the importance of setting personal health goals. Creating an action plan takes goal setting to the next level by focusing on a group-, organizational-, or community-level goal.
Action planning is a process that can be simplified into three related parts, represented in the image below.
I used the gear shapes to represent that these three parts are connected. As well, an action plan is a living document. The arrows represent that the process is not a straight line from Point A to Point B. At any time, you may have to return to an earlier step, for example, if you hit a barrier or if something doesn’t go the way you originally planned it.
An important aspect of making a plan is to write it down. That way, you are able to refer back to it and can monitor how it’s going.
The Identify—Create—Evaluate process is outlined below. Each part has additional questions to think through as you create the plan.
Identify an Issue
There is no shortage of health issues needing attention in our communities. We are all living through the worst public health crisis in a century. Closer to home, you may have a personal connection – something you or a family member are dealing with. Perhaps it is something that has affected your local school, community, or state.
- Identify the issue or situation you want to address.
- What is the problem?
- Identify and find the information you need.
- Start with the facts.
- Identify others to be involved.
- Who might share your concern about this issue?
- Why should someone else care?
Here are some things to think about:
- Are other people aware this is an issue? If not, what might convince them that it is important?
- Who is affected? How many people are affected?
- What can happen if we don’t do something about this issue or situation?
- Are some people opposed to addressing this issue? Why? What might convince them otherwise?
Where can you get information?
- Local and state health department
- Health professionals in the community, such as school nurse
- Community agency
- Government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Nonprofit and professional organizations, such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Ranking and Roadmaps
- Internet search (be sure to consult reputable sources of information)
- What will you do?
- Who do you want to reach?
- What do you want them to do?
- How will things be accomplished?
- What steps are involved?
- Where will you do it?
- When will it happen? What is your timeline?
- Who will do it?
- Who or what will help you? That is, what resources do you need to carry out the plan?
- What are the challenges you might encounter (and how can you overcome them)?
Dream big, but be realistic about what you can accomplish with the resources you have.
Take action! Put the plan into action and keep going.
Monitor your progress so you know if you are on track or if you have to make changes.
Be flexible; as the plan unfolds, be flexible enough to change course if you encounter a barrier or are presented with a new opportunity, and revise your plan as needed.
It’s important to know if you met your goal.
- What did you do?
- What does success look like?
- How can you measure it?
- How and with whom will you share the results of what you did?
Today’s Take-Away: Working through these questions will help you to create an action plan. You can download the Creating an Action Plan Handout here. The beauty of this process is that it can be repeated over an over, not just with Healthy Living action plans, but on any topic. Actively involving youth in addressing health issues can build skills and effect community change.