A Dose of Planning

26 Feb

One important part of health communication is advocacy. Advocacy in public health involves informing the public, swaying public opinion and influencing policy makers. But before you start advocating, you need to develop a plan. You need to know what exactly you are trying to get across to develop an effective message. Equally important, you need to know what your overall goal is. Are you trying to encourage teenagers to quit smoking? Are you trying to motivate young adults to get tested for HIV? Identifying your desired outcome is the first step to planning your health message.

After you have established your goal, there are some questions that you can ask yourself while developing your strategy. These come from the American Public Health Association’s Media Advocacy Manual. They can be used to craft successful health messages.

  1. What is the problem that you are highlighting? This could be anything from underage drinking to diabetes. However,  you need to narrow it down to a specific population. This way, it is more feasible to come up with a solution.
  2. Is there a solution? If so, what is it? Again, try to narrow this down to a specific population. For example, if you are trying to target teen pregnancy, you could advocate for parents to talk to their teenagers about how to engage in safe sex and prevent pregnancy.
  3. Who can make the solution possible? Whose support do you need to gain to make a solution happen?  In the example of teen pregnancy, your target audience would be parents who have children, specifically young teenagers. You would need to focus on gaining their cooperation and support.
  4. What do you need to do or say to get the attention of those who make the solution happen? This all depends on your target audience and how you can best reach them. If you want to use the media, figure out how you want them to get your message out there. You could also use advertising, marketing or more personal channels of communication.

One of the campaigns that has been used to prevent teen pregnancy

After considering all of these things, you are ready to craft your message. Make your message powerful, persuasive and compelling. Also, make sure your message targets your intended audience; if you are targeting parents, you will use different language then if you are trying to target lawmakers.

Using all of these tips in planning your advocacy efforts will help you create a more effective health message. Just remember that planning leads to action, and action can lead to success.

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