journal Public Health Advocacy asserts that “We need unchained voices to challenge the powers that rule our world” (Avery, et al., 2003). The article goes on to insist that “Advocates have the freedom to agitate for the advancement of agendas,” and for the American Public Health Association (APHA), that organization unchained the voices of their members to put pressure on members of Congress to: a) protect public health funding; b) protect the Affordable Care Act; and c) pass comprehensive legislation to reduce gun violence (APHA, 2013). This paper reviews the goals, the objectives, the message, the purpose and the media strategies that APHA used (and will use) as they advocate for public health issues.
The Public Health Action Campaign
The strategy that this campaign used in 2013 was timed to coincide with Congressional recess windows of time. Instead of APHA members going to Washington, D.C., members will buttonhole their senators and representatives when those politicians come back to their districts. The campaign points out that between June 29 and July 7 is one recess when elected officials will be in their districts, and then again from August 3 to September 8.
Members of APHA are urged to gather colleagues together (local health professionals and others interested in preserving and improving health institutions and health legislation) and arrange meeting (face-to-face) with member during the recess. They are also urged to call or email members of Congress [HIDDEN] ) and APHA provides a “sample phone script.” They are asked to write letters to the editor of the local paper; use Twitter and Facebook to make the case for continued support for healthcare groups; and take photos of the visits with Congressional members and send it to APHA for “national media exposure” (APHA, p. 4).
Among the many institutions and laws that this campaign sought to advocate for is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an enormously important group. The CDC is the “command center” for public health defenses against infectious diseases, and Congress has “made drastic cuts” to CDC, and that is unacceptable in terms of the health of the nation (APHA). Also Congress needs to support the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which supports community health centers, funds AIDS/HIV programs, funds rural health programs and prenatal and postnatal care services.
A big part of the campaign is to support the Affordable Care Act (including its “Prevention and Public Health Fund) (PPHF), which is important because the House of Representatives has voted over 50 times to either dismantle the Affordable Care Act or to cut major portions of the legislation out. In fact “funding for the PPHF has been reduced” by 50% (APHA).
The campaign plan calls for advocates to challenge Congress to take a “public health approach to gun violence”; this campaign program is several pages long and gives advocates specific, meaningful steps to take in approaching Congressional members about gun violence. For example gun violence cost the U.S. $174 billion in 2010, and APHA offers step-by-step points to follow when meeting a member of Congress in your district: a) arrive on time; b) bring two or three colleagues with you; c) deliver your message in three minutes or less; d) prepare yourself to answer questions; e) become a resource for your representative (offer time and assistance); f) give the member cogent materials on your position; and g) follow up with a thank you letter (APHA, p. 13).
On page 19, the campaign strategy document offers what to “DO” and “DON’T” do. On page 22 tips for using social media are offered and on 23 they offer “sample tweets”; on page 24 “Tips for getting a letter to the editor published” is presented.
In conclusion, the APHA 2013 PHACT Campaign toolkit is thorough and easy to follow, and this campaign has a lot of potential clout because it includes confronting political representative through media but also in face-to-face meetings. No one knows for sure what will come of a meeting with a politician, but the idea of buttonholing a Senator or Representative has potential power for citizens and for advocacy organizations. Voices need to be unchained, for sure, and this is one good way to do that.
American Public Health Association. (2013). APHA 2013 PHACT Campaign Toolkit.
Retrieved June 27, 2014, from http://www.apha.org.
Avery, B., and Bashir, S. (2003). The Road to Advocacy — Searching for the Rainbow.
American Journal of Public Health, 93(8), 1207-1201.
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