Public Health Advocacy can happen in many different ways and on many different levels. Advocacy is how epidemiological research and evidence-based practice are applied to “inform, create, and influence legislation and change the environment in order to create circumstances in which optimal health is possible” (Galer-Unti, 2016). Learning how to be an advocate may seem daunting. This article will provide a few resources to help you get started.
One of the primary purposes of government as stated in the United States Constitution is to promote the general welfare of its citizens. This clause provides the basis for legislation that will protect the health, safety, and well-being of the governed public (General Welfare, 2019). However, public health best practices are increasingly challenged. Practices such as masking, substance use, vaping, social services, gun regulation, and sex education. What role does advocacy play in preserving public health with these issues?
As a public health professional, advocating for laws and regulations that protect public health and prevent disease plays a critical role. Using your knowledge and skills to promote behavior change and provide interventions are important for health. Nevertheless, without changes to policy enacted by the government, other efforts will not be enough (Trust for America’s Health, 2021). Politics may not be of interest to you, yet the relationship between public health and policy decisions cannot be separated.
Advocacy does not need to happen at State or Federal levels. In fact, the most influential change can happen with local policy change. According to USOPHE’s Advocacy Chair, Josh Pittman, “One point that I think is crucial is that decisions are made by those who show up. If health professionals choose not to show up then the decision will be made by those who do.” Get started by browsing the Utah legislative website or watching any of Utah’s legislative sessions to become familiar with current issues. Becoming familiar with policy discussions will enable you to contribute to the conversation.
In order to be a more effective public health professional, learn all you can about how to advocate. In October, SOPHE will present its Annual Advocacy Summit in Washington, D.C. If attending is not an option for you, they also offer an online course, Advocacy in Action. Public Health Law has become a field of study unto itself, regulated by the CDC. A certificate course is offered through Change Lab Solutions, presented by the CDC if this is something you have a further desire to pursue (Public Health Law Academy, 2022). USOPHE partners with UPHA annually to provide an advocacy training day.
Additionally, become involved with local advocacy groups. Utahns for Civic Engagement lists multiple coalitions you can contact. Doing a quick Google search for coalitions in Utah will provide a list of organizations for you to browse and choose as well. Domestic violence, substance use, housing, immunization, health are among the many areas you might find of interest.
Galer-Unti, R. A. (reviewed Oct. 14, 2016). Public health advocacy. Oxford Bibliographies. https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199756797/obo-9780199756797-0028.xml
General Welfare Clause. (February 2019). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_welfare_clause
Public Health Law Academy. (2022). Good governance. Retrieved August 13, 2022 from https://www.changelabsolutions.org/good-governance/phla
Trust for America’s Health. (2021). Leveraging evidence-based policies to improve health, control costs, and create health equity. Retrieved July 9, 2022, from https://www.tfah.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/2021_LeveragingReport_Fnl.pdf