The Power of Advocacy
To communicate and advocate for the value of public health.
To change how the public and decision-makers think about the value of public health and to be a leading voice in framing health as a human right, we proposed to 1) prioritize our role as an honest and nonpartisan broker of public health information and find new and compelling ways to communicate the impact of our work with a focus on showing how the science and practice of public health impact lives every day; and 2) convene inclusive and open discourse about major public health issues that can inform our science and boost our efforts to advocate for evidence-informed solutions that will make a difference.
Reflections on the Changing Landscape
The COVID-19 pandemic gave new urgency and prominence to the importance of communicating our discoveries and sharing knowledge in ways that are digestible and trustworthy to inform evidence-based decision-making. If people don’t understand and trust the evidence we produce, its impact is limited. We also recognized, more than ever before, the importance of demonstrating how the science and practice of public health impact lives every day.
We saw firsthand that good science is not good enough. We must intervene in the larger political, economic, and social arenas and more fully engage in advocacy that will lead to programs and policies that protect the public’s health. The bold decision to formally integrate advocacy into our priorities as a strategic pillar for the School has taken on heightened importance. Public health has been hobbled by decades of neglect and held back by politics. That is changing. The value of public health has been recognized yet again. We must seize this moment in history and the spotlight on public health’s strengths and weaknesses to build the political will to re-envision public health and rebuild our public health systems. We must ensure that public health is fully integrated with domestic and global health care systems and focuses on prevention as much as on cures.
Embracing open and meaningful civic engagement that bridges political divides and overcomes bias in our efforts at communication and advocacy is critical in making social, cultural, and policy change possible.
Public health advocacy has the power to improve all lives through evidence-based action. That is the ethos we hope to broadly inspire.
Shelley A. Hearne, DrPH, MPH
The Deans Sommer and Klag Professor of the Practice in Public Health Advocacy