Public Health Professionals as Policy Entrepreneurs

With passage of Act 1220, Arkansas enacted what was in 2003 the most comprehensive school-based legislation to combat childhood obesity. What factors brought childhood obesity to the forefront of the Arkansas legislative agenda?

Researchers reviewed salient documents and interviewed key persons involved with the legislative process then applied John Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Framework. The three streams that produced a policy window and allowed policy entrepreneurs to advance their goals in Arkansas were:

  • Policy stream: Policy-makers were aware of hearings on health school vending machine content and of BMI screenings being conducted in schools.
  • Political stream: The legislative task force on childhood obesity made recommendations, and officials at state and national meetings discussed the problem and possible interventions.
  • Problem stream: Policy-makers saw evidence of the consequences of obesity, including data on increases in child type 2 diabetes and politicians of both parties revealing obesity-related personal health problems.

House Speaker Herschel Cleveland, a policy entrepreneur, was poised to advance policy change. When public health professionals found legislators willing to act, they were ready with practical policy options.

By being aware of the Multiple Streams Framework, public health advocates can more easily recognize windows of opportunity and effectively take action to make important policy changes.