Health Educators and Advocacy: What’s the deal?

GLC-SOPHE members are becoming more and more interested in policy and advocacy so we’re working to expand our member’s expertise. First step – enhance our advocacy webpage with some basic advocacy information.

Let’s get started.

The following terms make up the foundation of understanding advocacy:

Health advocacy is defined as “the processes by which the actions of individuals or groups attempt to bring about social and/or organizational change on behalf of a particular health goal, program, interest, or population” (2000 Joint Committee on Health Education and Promotion Terminology, 2002, p. 3).

Lobbying, according to federal law, is any attempt to influence specific legislation (Vernick, 1999).

Grassroots lobbying is any attempt to influence the public or segment of the public to take action on specific legislation (Vernick, 1999). Grassroots activity is considered lobbying by the federal government when the public is asked to contact their representative to create, support, or oppose legislation (Vernick, 1999).

Electioneering, according to federal law, is any attempt to influence an election (Vernick, 1999).

When thinking about engaging in advocacy there is often concern about how to get started and if you can do it based on where you work. The most important thing to know is that you are allowed to advocate for anything as a private citizen. This means doing it on your own time, not at work, on your own computer, etc.

There are six strategies that Galer-Unti, Tappe and Lachenmayr (2004) suggest for becoming a health education advocate on your personal time. In an effort to take baby steps in promoting advocacy, we’re going to provide you the “good” action for each strategy, but we suggest you take a look at the article for “better” and “best” actions. (and, remember, the article was written in 2004 so it’s understanding of the internet is a wee-bit dated, but informational nonetheless).

  1. Voting behavior

Register and vote: It’s an essential part of determining elected officials that formulate policy at every level of government.

  1. Electioneering (Support or Become a Candidate)

Contribute to the campaign of a candidate friendly to public health and health education: Remembering that government and non-profit employees cannot electioneer, health educators as private citizens can support others and run for political office.

  1. Direct Lobbying

Contact a policy maker: A simple email, phone call, or letter on a piece of legislation that interests you is a good action step. Remember, the safest bet is to NOT use your employer’s name or job status/title and make your contact on personal time.

  1. Integrate Grassroots Lobbying into Direct Lobbying Activities

Start a petition drive to advocate a specific policy in your local community: Petitions are a great way to catch the eye of community members and policy makers.

  1. Using the Internet to Access and Disseminate Advocacy-Related Information

Use the Internet to access information related to health issues: Sign up for mailing lists to stay up-to-date on health issues that are important to you.

  1. Media Advocacy – Newspaper Letters to the Editor and Op-Ed Articles

Write a letter to the editor: Letters to the editor remain one of the best ways to share your opinion because many community members and policy makers (or their staffers) read them (even if they are on Facebook instead of in print now).

Feeling like you need more advocacy in your life?

You can also check out our blog which is updated monthly on various advocacy topics:

Interested in joining the advocacy committee? Please email us.

The content of this page has been modified from an article that you should totally read to keep expanding your advocacy expertise and efforts.

Galer-Unti, R.A., Tappe, M.K, & Lachenmayr, S. (2004) Advocacy 101: Getting started in health education advocacy. Health Promotion Practice, 5;280. Retrieved from