Developing public health advocates
PHAA members have come together to offer a new online public health advocacy short course.
Dr Michael Moore AM, former World Federation of Public Health Associations President, and former CEO and now Life Member of PHAA
Public health is political. The advent of COVID-19 has made the political nature of public health more and more apparent. Scanning responses nationally and internationally illustrates how some decisions have been scientifically based while others have been influenced by a range of other extraneous factors.
As those of us who work in Public Health know, it’s not enough to show the evidence for why a particular policy decision will help improve peoples’ health – we must also be effective advocates.
Being able to influence decision making through carefully orchestrated advocacy work provides an opportunity to bring about healthier decisions for the community as a whole. Just some of the public health successes in Australian over the last 20 years include: HPV vaccination to prevent cervical cancer - Australia is now expected to be the first country to eliminate cervical cancer, tobacco control, gun control, road safety, pregnancy warning labels on alcoholic beverages, and just recently free and accessible sanitary products in NSW public schools.
But not all advocacy efforts have seen success, and some successes are now being diluted and weakened. For example, the unethical marketing of harmful products, carbon emissions, sugar-sweetened beverage health levies, and the age at which children can be incarcerated.
The course was developed to increase the cohort of trained public health advocates in order to strengthen our ability to manage more effective challenges to such industries. To help address this, the University of Canberra in collaboration with the Public Health Advocacy Institute of Australia based at Curtin University have developed a new course on how to conduct advocacy.
Students gain understanding that public health advocacy is the deliberate process of using knowledge and evidence to support or argue in favour of a cause, policy or idea in order to influence decision-makers and public opinion that results in healthier people. The course will then consider how to enact those elements, explains values-based advocacy, and provides practical skills for policy implementation.
The practical skills will include dealing with local, state and federal politicians as well as the bureaucrats that support them. Attendees will learn the importance of building relationships and how to go about it.
Furthermore, we practice how to use traditional and social media to make a difference. Practical elements such as the “elevator pitch” and being opportunistic will be developed, along with skills facilitating preparation for an appearance before a Parliamentary Committee or Commission of Inquiry.
International advocacy will be covered to provide an understanding of working with the World Health Organization, and the role of the World Federation of Public Health Associations. Attendees will learn about the opportunities to engage at the local, national and international level to improve public health policy.
The goal of the public health short course (drawing from the banner of John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) is to assist public health professionals to more effectively implement public health action that is not just about “Protecting health, Saving lives”, but to do so “Millions at a time” (Hopkins 2019).
For more information:
· The Public Health Advocacy course will be delivered online over 8 evenings from 6.00-7.30pm between 4-14 April ·