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This guide is your portal to reliable resources pertaining to the study of human social behavior.

Finding Data

Demographic Data

  • Census Data (Go to Advanced Search, select Geographic Location, and search by County)

Health Data

Community Health Assessments can be found by searching for the name of your county, city, or town and "Community Health Needs Assessment report." Most hospitals will have a public report available.

To limit your search to .gov, use site:gov + search terms.

To limit to a filetype, use filetype:pdf + search terms.

You may combine site:gov + filetype:pdf + search terms.

Policies, Legislation, & Executive Orders

What is Health Policy?

Health policy refers to decisions, plans, and actions that are undertaken to achieve specific health care goals within a society. An explicit health policy can achieve several things: it defines a vision for the future which in turn helps to establish targets and points of reference for the short and medium term. It outlines priorities and the expected roles of different groups; and it builds consensus and informs people. Source: World Health Organization

Health policy is often described as consisting of a "big P" and a "small p." "Big P" are formal laws and regulations enacted by elected officials. "Small p" are internal agency decisions or memorandum, organizational guidelines, or social norms guiding behavior. Source: Eyler, A. A., Chriqui, J. F., Moreland-Russell, S., & Brownson, R. C. (Eds.). (2016). Prevention, policy, and public health. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

There are many ways to locate policies, and how you find them will depend on the region/county/state you are researching.

I recommend using the following strategies:

  • Using the site: filter in an online search to search through .gov webpages or local government sites.
  • Searching for news about recent policy changes (often they will link you to the policy document)
  • Search for through scholarly literature (e.g., journal articles) to locate names of policies that you can then search for. Try using one of the databases below.


  • State Legislature Websites: Select the state you are researching to find their laws and current legislation.
  • Open States: Aggregates data from all 50 states. Research and track bills, review voting records, contact elected officials and more.
  • Policy Surveillance Program by LawAtlas: 

    Provides access to reliable information about laws and policies that influence the public’s health. Can help policy-makers, advocates and researchers understand what the laws are on a given topic, know how the laws differ over time and across jurisdictions, and provides data so they may evaluate their impact.

  • National Academy for State Health Policy: The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) is an independent academy of state health policymakers.

  • Chronic Disease State Policy Tracking System: Contains over 6,000 policies related to chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Browse the policies below or select specific characteristics on the left to narrow the list.

  • National Organization Policy Resources: A list of national organizations that offer policy information on the public health system.

  • Health Affairs: Health Affairs is the leading journal of health policy thought and research. Request articles from this journal through IDS.

  • Federal Office of Rural Health Policy: Focuses on on health care issues impacting rural communities, including: Access to quality health care and health professionals; Viability of rural hospitals; and Effect of the Department’s proposed rules and regulations, including Medicare and Medicaid, on access to and financing of health care in rural areas.