The Impact of Policy, Environmental, and Educational Interventions: A Synthesis of the Evidence From Two Public Health Success Stories

Andrea C. Gielen, Lawrence W. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Motor vehicle safety and tobacco control are among the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the number of miles traveled in the United States multiplied 10 times from the 1920s to the 1990s, the annual motor vehicle crash death rate per vehicle mile traveled decreased by 90%. Similarly, tobacco-related deaths from heart disease, stroke, and cancer were rapidly mounting over the first two thirds of the 20th century. Then, in the last third of the century, tobacco consumption decreased by more than 50%, and rates of heart disease and stroke deaths, and later cancer deaths, declined similarly. This analysis addresses the central question of what lessons can be learned from these success stories that will help public health professionals successfully tackle new and emerging health behavior problems of today and tomorrow? Surveillance, research, multilevel interventions, environmental modifications, and strong policies were key to reducing motor vehicle- and tobacco-related health problems. Generating public support and advocacy, and changing social norms also played critical roles in promoting the safer and smoke-free behaviors. Lessons learned include the need for evidence-based practices and interventions that are ecologically comprehensive with an emphasis on changing environmental determinants and capitalizing on the concept of reciprocal determinism. The analysis concludes with a description of how the PRECEDE-PROCEED planning framework can be used to apply the lessons from motor vehicle safety and tobacco control to other public health threats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-34
Number of pages15
JournalHealth Education and Behavior
StatePublished - Apr 4 2015


  • ecological model
  • environmental intervention
  • motor vehicle safety
  • policy intervention
  • tobacco control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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