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GEAR Groups Rolling On: Communicating the Value of Public Health

Monday, June 20, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gillan Ritchie
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The GEAR Groups are now well into their work and are into their fourth calls, digging deep into the substance of their topics. The work of the GEAR Groups is hitting on very timely issues in the intersection between the emerging and transforming health system and chronic disease prevention and health promotion. GEAR Group #4 is tackling a hot topic that impacts all of our work- Communicating the Value of Public Health. When we are successful … what happens -- the stroke that didn’t happen, the cancer that is prevented … or with policy, systems and environmental change strategies we may be accused of running “the nanny state” … so communicating chronic disease prevention and control is frequently a difficult endeavor.

GEAR Group #4 members are sharing state and local examples of public health and health system goals that are aligned for mutual benefit and identifying key messages that communicate the value of public health. Team members are sharing the frameworks and tools they have used to make the case for public health to key audiences and partners. 

 The Learning Objectives for the GEAR Group are:

  1. Team members will gain leadership skills in working with their peers to identify and share public health and health system goals that are mutually beneficial and that improve chronic disease related health outcomes.
  2. Team members will gain knowledge about potential messages, tools and frameworks for communicating the value of public health to key audiences and partners.
  3. Team members will develop a product that showcases their collaborative work that can be shared widely with all state chronic disease directors and programs.

As part of their work, the GEAR Group explored state examples of public health initiatives with good communication components, such as WellAheadLA (Louisiana) (WELAHEADLA.COM), a wellness initiative started at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals aimed at improving the health and wellness of Louisiana citizens. In this case, the group explored how “creating a brand” can be useful for a public health campaign. 

As with all the GEAR Groups, they are developing a product. The product will focus on communicating with legislators and external funders. The rationale for choosing legislators/external funders as target audience includes:

  • Policy development is a core public health function
  • Legislators and external funders make the decisions about funding and priorities for public health in states
  • Public health needs to strengthen and better communicate its value and role to legislators/external funders with regard to the health care and payment reform landscape

GEAR Group activities

The GEAR Group is engaged in identifying key approaches to communicating to these priority audiences, and are looking to create a checklist with tips for communicating the value of public health with legislators/decision-makers as the Group’s product. 

Group members summarized key points found in looking at other resources and from their experiences when communicating to legislators/decision makers including:

  • Develop a good success story that tells what happened local or in the state
  • Narrow down an example of a service that happens locally that has made an impact.
  • The RJWF document (A New Way to Look at the Social Determinates of Health) provides a lot of good information
  • Establish relationships with legislators and decision makers early, not just during a crisis
  • Be sensitive to their schedules and work with their staff. Leave things behind that reinforce your message.
  • Leave out the public health jargon. 

It was also suggested that public health staff must know their internal and external road map for communicating with legislators/decision makers. The members are exploring development of a communication decision tree (what’s the route within your organization, what types of people you should ask in your organization) for how to navigate internal and external channels for educating legislators. A critical discussion point was on the importance of information about the difference between advocacy and lobbying and what is allowed when using federal or state funds. It is noted that NACDD had language that has been used in other trainings that she could share with the group.

The product under development by this GEAR Group will be valuable to chronic disease staff in any location.