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Survey Tallies Health-Enabling Policies in Washington Cities

The Washington State Department of Health and the UW Center for Public Health Nutrition conducted a survey of all cities and towns in Washington to better understand what city policies create supportive environments for healthy eating, physical activity, and tobacco-free living. A partnership with the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) provided contact information for Washington’s 281 cities and towns.

City officials used a web-based survey to answer nine questions about current city policies that affect nutrition, physical activity, and tobacco use among residents. Cities also provided relevant policy documents.

Of the 281 cities and towns contacted, 185 (66%) cities completed the survey. Responses reflect the diversity of Washington counties, and of cities of various population size. Most cities surveyed reported no current or planned policies related to physical activity, nutrition, or tobacco use. Fifty-six (30%) cities that responded to the survey said they had at least one such policy. Cities were most likely to have policies that increase opportunities for recreational physical activity (parks, trails), as well as opportunities for physical activity as part of everyday activity (active commuting, public transit).

Number of cities with current and planned policies by survey question
Does your city or town have any policies that aim to…
Yes, we have at least one policy
No, but we plan to have one within one year
No current policy
Increase access to healthy foods/drinks
26 (14%)
5 (3%)
154 (83%)
Promote purchase of healthy foods/drinks
4 (2%)
176 (98%)
Limit availability/increase cost of less healthy foods/drinks
2 (1%)
182 (98%)
Support breastfeeding
5 (3%)
1 (1%)
180 (96%)
Increase recreational physical activity opportunities
38 (21%)
5 (3%)
142 (77%)
Increase opportunities for physical activity in everyday activities
28 (15%)
3 (2%)
154 (83%)
Promote physical activity
2 (1%)
4 (2%)
179 (97%)
Limit access to tobacco
4 (2%)
1 (1%)
180 (97%)
Limit exposure to tobacco and marketing
9 (5%)
3 (2%)
173 (94%)

A total of 791 relevant policies emerged from city survey responses. Nutrition and tobacco policies were most often included in municipal codes and physical activity policies were most often part of a city’s comprehensive plan or other planning document.

Results point to the opportunity for cities to use policies to create environments and places that support residents’ efforts toward making healthy choices. Cities interested in health-related policy development should contact the Washington State Department of Health for information and assistance. State and local health departments, as well as the Washington State Nutrition and Physical Activity Plan sections linked to the right, can provide a variety of assistance, including local and regional case studies, tool kits, policy templates, and other useful resources.

Summary report (pdf)


Washington State Department of Health, UW Center for Public Health Nutrition, Association of Washington Cities

Target Audience

City Managers, City Administrators and City Clerks



For More Information:
  • Carla Huyck, Washington State Department of Health, 360-236-3678
  • Mike Boysun, Washington State Department of Health, 360-236-3671
  • Erica Lamson, UW Center for Public Health Nutrition, 360-610-9231