This Year, Choose Preparedness: An Exploration of SMART Goal-setting and Public Health Preparedness
Autumn Cernohous | Public Health Educator - Emergency Preparedness
What are SMART Goals?
How Might SMART Goals Fit into PHEP?
A Public Health-related SMART Goal Example
Resources for Setting SMART Goals
Health Dunn Right Wishes All a Happy New Year!
Image Accessibility: An image of '2023' in golden balloons.
We are a few days into 2023, and for some, this week might be a week of new beginnings. Whether it be to eat healthier or to exercise more, many people seek to change individual health behaviors with the arrival of a new year. Frequently, these changes center around shrinking – which may be shrinking ourselves to fit into what is perceived as ‘healthy.’ Overindulgent in comfort foods around shared holidays can lead to a lot of internalized shame in people who are experiencing challenges with their body image. Because diet culture, or the presence of social pressure to lose weight to achieve a certain look, is prevalent this time of year, many people may find this topic distressing. I am here to tell you today that it does not have to be this way; health can be so much more than shrinking ourselves.
Setting New Year’s Resolutions is a phenomenon that often has a common pitfall: these goals are not sustainable, and are often lost after a few days, weeks, or months. So I am wondering…why are we, as a society, placing so much value in changing ourselves through resolution setting if it is not something we are likely to succeed at?
What if, instead, we flipped the narrative to expand ourselves and to practice self-love and self-compassion as we strive to do our best in whatever capacity that might be for the given day? To grow our strengths, and to strengthen what we are already doing well, is something that might evoke less harm.
As a young person facing a definitive life transition (as I am entering professional life after attending college), I know from personal experience that grappling with failure of goal achievement is something I do not take lightly. What works for one person may not work for another. However, in this blog, I will introduce you to a new way to think about or to approach goals you would like to achieve that is utilized by many professionals across many sectors.
What are SMART Goals?
SMART goals is a standardized framework for goal-setting that anyone can use, and it is meant to structure a goal so that it is challenging, yet can still be met. Each letter of ‘SMART’ stands for an element of the goal that must be present in order to consider the goal a SMART goal. SMART goals go beyond a typical goal – such a commonly-set New Year’s Resolutions – because they are thoroughly written and detailed. Someone should be able to read a SMART goal without any prior knowledge or context of it and be able to understand your intentions behind the goal.
Image Accessibility: The Minnesota Department of Health's Graphic of SMART Goals.
How Might SMART Goals Relate to Public Health Preparedness?
Personal preparedness is an aspect of Public Health Emergency Preparedness (abbreviated by PHEP) planning that means that the everyday person has the ability to take action to prepare for all kinds of emergencies that might occur. Emergencies can range from a house fire to a tornado or a nuclear emergency– the one constant in all disasters is that emergencies are unanticipated and occur quickly. Emergencies require us to take fast actions to be safe. Sometimes, this can mean very simple actions, such as charging all devices before a storm begins so you can receive weather alerts. Other times, it can take greater time and efforts to prepare, such as planning for evacuation.
When talking about personal preparedness, I want to acknowledge that privilege – or someone’s unique set of characteristics that may advantage or disadvantage them from others, such as racial and/or ethnic identity— can absolutely impact someone’s ability to prepare for disasters effectively. For example, people with limited financial resources may be unable to purchase a 3-day food supply because they do not have stable housing to store this food safely/ properly. Which means, personal preparedness looks different for everyone.
However, the best thing we can do to is to plan for emergencies before they even happen. The goal of personal preparedness planning is to imagine yourself in a scenario and to consider what you might do to stay safe during that situation.
Public Health-related SMART Goal Example
Related to disasters, many people may value the following goal – To be better prepared for an emergency if I were to be disconnected from my loved one(s).
While this is a truly important goal, the goal itself is unclear. How do you plan to do this? When do you plan to do this? What will demonstrate that you are more prepared than before? Because these questions are not answered, this goal is not an example of a SMART goal.
Here’s another way to frame that goal.
By the end of this month (Tuesday January 31, 2023), I will set aside at least one hour in my schedule to gather the necessary contact information of my loved one(s), in order to create a Family Emergency Communication Plan through Ready.Gov. When the online Communication form is complete, I will email the auto-generated PDF to myself and share it among my loved one(s) so everyone knows what to do during an emergency.
This goal, by comparison, includes a lot more information about how to be prepared for disasters. How might this goal be a SMART goal? Let’s unpack the goal by each SMART goal elements.
Specific: Yes, the narrator plans to lead this goal of data entry on Ready.gov’s fillable forms. It may be helpful to accompany this goal with a list of the loved one(s) you plan to share the plan with.
Measurable: Yes, a written plan will be developed because of this process.
Achievable/Attainable: Yes and no, there are still three full weeks in January – it can be reasonable to gather information from loved ones over this duration, and to input the information in a spreadsheet under an hour with the information already available to you.
Realistic/Relevant: Yes, because a Family Communications Plan is a great tool to use to increase personal emergency preparedness among households.
Time-bound: Yes, the goal must be completed by the last day of the month.
This year, take your goals to the next level. By using SMART goals, you can set goals that clearly outline what you desire, and how you might go about achieving it. Learning to write your goals in a SMART format may feel overwhelming at first; please know that this is totally normal. There are excellent online resources and worksheets to check out that can help you draft your very own SMART goals.
Do not forget – personal preparedness can be a great topic to begin practicing SMART goal setting with! You never know when the next emergency or disaster may strike. Let us help you be prepared.
Feeling inspired? Comment your goals below!
Resources for Setting SMART Goals
Dunn County Emergency Management and 911 Communications (Click on the ‘Be Prepared’ tab on the righthand side to explore tools to increase your personal preparedness).
SAMSHA Native Connections. (n.d.). Setting Goals and Developing Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound Objectives. Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/nc-smart-goals-fact-sheet.pdf
Minnesota Department of Health (n.d.). Objectives and Goals: Writing Meaningful Goals and SMART Objectives. Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/practice/resources/phqitoolbox/objectives.html