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Take Action Now!. Public Health Advocacy Strategies Public Health Student Caucus Session 5069.1 Wednesday, November 13, 2002. Session Overview. Introductions Definitions Strategies and options Group think. What is Policy?.

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take action now

Take Action Now!

Public Health Advocacy Strategies

Public Health Student Caucus

Session 5069.1

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

session overview
Session Overview
  • Introductions
  • Definitions
  • Strategies and options
  • Group think
what is policy
What is Policy?
  • A plan or course of action, as of a government, political party, or business, intended to influence and determine decisions, actions, and other matters: American foreign policy; the company's personnel policy.
public policy
Public Policy
  • Passed by elected officials or by the citizenry
  • Applicable to entire populations
  • Traditional levels
    • Federal, state and local (city council, county commissioners)
  • Non-traditional levels
    • School board, regional housing and transportation councils, park and recreation boards
organizational policy
Organizational Policy
  • Passed by selected groups or leaders within organizations
  • Applicable to certain segments of the population
  • Traditional types
    • Non-profit organizations, for-profit businesses, universities, other large institutions
  • Non-traditional types
    • Faith-based organizations, unions, families, residence halls
no smoking within 30 feet
No Smoking Within 30 Feet.
  • University ATOD* task force investigates and suggests policy change
  • Proposal is circulated to faculty, staff and students for comment
  • Final statement submitted to Board of Regents for review
  • Policy passes and is enforced by university community

*Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs

what is advocacy
What is Advocacy?
  • The act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support.
why be an advocate
Why be an Advocate?
  • To change your world.
  • To change your state, your city, your community, your school, your classroom, your family.
  • To make it easier for people to be healthy.
who s an advocate
Who’s an Advocate?
  • Everyone can be.
  • Usual suspects
    • Formal and informal community leaders, non-profit advocacy organizations, lobbyists, policymakers, business community
  • Unusual suspects
    • Students, parents, low-income families, targeted individuals
9 steps to better advocacy
9 Steps to Better Advocacy
  • From: “Now Hear This: The Nine Laws of Successful Advocacy Communications” from Fenton Communications
    • www.fenton.com
  • Three criteria
    • Clear goals, measurable progress
    • Audience identification and segmentation
    • Clear, simple, concise messages
the rest of the steps
The Rest of the Steps
  • Ensuring these three steps are part of the entire campaign
    • Planning, planning, planning
    • Specify what people should do
    • Make the case: action needed now!
    • Match strategy and tactics to your target audience
    • Budget for success
    • Bring in the experts (firepower!)
top ten advocacy options when you want to do it yourself
Indirect Methods

Letter to the editor

Guest opinions

Press releases



Direct Methods






Top Ten Advocacy OptionsWhen You Want to Do It Yourself
10 letter to the editor

Short letter to the local paper regarding a current issue covered by the press or up for debate

Submitted by you as a private citizen or by you as a member of an organization/group


Pick a simple message

Find data to support your statements

Use your affiliation to your advantage

Submit quickly to capture the audience

Keep the letter short and smart

10. Letter to the Editor
9 guest opinion
9. Guest Opinion


  • Longer column submitted to the local paper in response to a request or need for further information
  • Again, submitted by you as a private citizen (possibly), but more likely by you (and others) as experts


  • Three to five major points about an issue
  • Use background research (quantitative and qualitative) to fill in the blanks
  • Again, submit quickly to capture policymaker interest
  • Use your affiliation
8 press release
8. Press Release


  • Statement about an issue or a current policy released by an organization for or against that policy
  • Submitted by an organization (a student group, a non-profit, a business) and issued to the press (print, TV, radio)


  • Keep it concise—limit yourself to 3-4 major points about the issue
  • Use more qualitative (quotes) than quantitative (numbers) data
  • Provide visuals for numbers
  • Timely submission
7 psas
7. PSAs


  • Usually free announcement carried by local media in support of an issue or to address a problem
  • Generally a unified effort by several concerned groups and supportive press
  • Less policy-focused, more general health


  • One major point (usually positive) about an issue
  • Use local (or national) personality to share message
  • Not necessarily needed in a speedy fashion
  • Include local supporters and local contact information
6 petitions
6. Petitions


  • Pro or con policy statement supported by a large number of constituents
  • Sometimes used to get issues to the ballot
  • Can be submitted by private citizens or on behalf of an organization or business


  • One to two major points about an issue
  • Keep background information concise
  • Timely submission will help influence policymakers
  • Depending on size of area/company, 300-500 signatures for impact
5 letter to policymaker
5. Letter to Policymaker


  • One-two page letter addressed directly to a policymaker
  • Submitted by you as a private citizen or by you as an informed expert (or as both)
  • Supports or opposes a specific policy option (e.g., bill, ordinance)


  • Three to five major points about an issue
  • Use quantitative and qualitative data
  • Timely submission (before vote) is critical
  • Use your affiliation if you so choose
  • Ask for explicit support or opposition
4 call to policymaker
4. Call to Policymaker


  • Telephone call directly to the office of the policymaker you wish to influence
  • As a constituent, you’ll get immediate attention-your message will be delivered directly
  • As an organizational expert, you may be sidelined


  • One, at most two points about an issue
  • Use qualitative stories for support (especially ones close to home)
  • Call immediately to express and ask for support or opposition
  • Remind if you voted for this policymaker
3 protests
3. Protests


  • Physical demonstration in opposition of a policy option (rarely rallies in support as well)
  • Coalition of private citizens, experts, organizational staff gathering to sit-in, march, demonstrate, visit those in power


  • Two to three major points about an issue
  • Qualitative stories are the best support in a demonstration, along with those affected
  • Oriented toward broad issues with cross-session appeal
  • Use your affiliation
2 visit to policymaker
2. Visit to Policymaker


  • Face-to-face session with a policymaker to address a specific policy issue or option
  • Private citizen constituents have first priority, followed by constituent organizations, then other groups/lobbyists


  • Three to five major points about an issue
  • Use qualitative data first, followed by quantitative information packet
  • Make sure meetings are timely, close to votes
  • Ask for express support or opposition
  • Use your affiliation if you so choose
1 testifying
1. Testifying


  • Presenting data and/or other information to a committee or set of policymakers
  • May be advising several policy options or one specific idea
  • You act as an expert or an affected citizen


  • Five to seven major points about an issue
  • Both qualitative and quantitative research is useful
  • You may be invited to speak or you may offer to join a coalition of people willing to testifying
  • Use your affiliation
stand up and stretch
Stand Up and Stretch!
  • Let’s take a little break! Stand up and move around.
  • “Letter off” into groups A, B and C
  • Locate yourself near the others in your team
group groove
Group Groove
  • Each team will be responsible for developing an advocacy plan to tackle a particular policy issue
    • Consider what your message should be.
    • Come up with at least 4 specific advocacy ideas
    • How would you communicate these with other students?
team a
Team A
  • Your university’s graduate assistant health insurance does not cover mental health services. Your team is part of a coalition of student organizations trying to make sure all health care, especially mental health and preventive care, is covered. The Board of Regents will consider a health insurance policy change at its next meeting, in three weeks.
team b
Team B
  • Your city council members are facing some hard financial decisions this year. They have proposed to cut all funding for domestic violence shelters in the city, hoping that someone else will support this cause. As students interested in violence prevention, you are outraged and want to make a statement before next month’s city council meeting.
team c
Team C
  • The United States Senate is considering a bill to increase funding for anti-bioterrorism efforts. You and several fellow students are concerned that this bill does not allow for support of the rest of the public health infrastructure in this country. Your Senator is supportive of the bill and does not understand why it may not be comprehensive enough. The vote is in 9 days.
  • Take 10 minutes to discuss this among your group. Remember to address the following components:
    • Consider what your message should be.
    • Come up with at least 4 specific advocacy ideas
    • How would you communicate these with other students?
group discussion
Group Discussion
  • We’ll take 10-15 minutes to discuss each team’s advocacy proposal.
  • As you listen to other teams present, consider:
    • What are some other advocacy options you might suggest?
    • What are some pitfalls the team may face along the way?
fly in the ointment
Fly in the Ointment
  • Advocacy is never easy. Policies rarely pass without changes, most of them major and often in the opposite direction from what you’d like to see.
  • Your team is now responsible for coming up with two to three ways to deal with the troubles you run into….
team a32
Team A
  • Several members of the Board of Regents have agreed to meet with the members of your coalition one-on-one. These Board members have expressed that although they are in support of adding mental health services to the health insurance package, they are opposed to adding dental or eye care to this package. Your coalition feels that the health insurance for graduate assistants should be top quality. What are your options and next steps?
team b33
Team B
  • Tobacco control advocates have approached you and have suggested that if the city raises tobacco tax by $.50/pack, some of the funds could be used to support domestic violence shelters. You are concerned about the lack of consistency of these funds and about the possible regressivity of tobacco tax. What are your options and next steps?
team c34
Team C
  • Your Senator has agreed to try and add an amendment to the proposed bill that would increase funding for general public health infrastructure. However, she believes these funds should only go to local public health agencies and not to state agencies. What are your options and next steps?
  • Take 10 minutes to discuss this among your group. Remember to come up with two to three ways to address the problem. Be sure to discuss:
    • What your new message might be.
    • How you would communicate this with other students
    • How you would move rapidly to respond
group discussion36
Group Discussion
  • We’ll take 10-15 minutes to discuss each team’s approach to their troubles.
  • As you listen to other teams present, consider:
    • What are some other ways you might deal with these challenges?
now that you re energized
Now That You’re Energized!
  • Become an advocate!
  • Pick an issue that’s important to you and think about ways you can tackle that issue. Are you a part of a student (or any other) organization that might be willing to take on a new policy challenge?
  • Do you have friends and colleagues interested in making some real social change? Make sure to ask for their involvement as well.
wrap up
Wrap Up!

This was a brief overview to advocacy!

Be sure to check out:


for more information on

action and advocacy.