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Health Advocacy

A Communication Approach


Marifran Mattson and Chervin Lam

There is growing emphasis in Health Communication on the study of communication processes that aim to change systems, policies, beliefs, attitudes, and/or behaviors for the betterment of the health of individuals and communities. Engagement on behalf of individual and community health is the basis of health advocacy - the attempted effort to change health policies so that better health outcomes may result.
This book explores the processes and strategies involved in creating a health advocacy campaign to guide current and aspiring health advocates to successfully advocate for policy change.
The Health Communication Advocacy Model is provided as a framework for exploring these issues. The model emphasizes the message design process, particularly in the tailoring of messages to address the needs of target audiences. However, consideration of important health advocacy concepts also is provided, including how to organize an advocacy team, approaches to formative research, research-based strategies for crafting effective health advocacy messages, and recommendations for what to do when an advocacy campaign is ending. This framework is designed for users to execute an advocacy effort for any health issue – from obesity, to cancer and smoking - in an efficient and effective manner.
Ultimately, readers will learn how to lead a successful advocacy campaign and accomplish their desired advocacy goals.
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Chapter 2. Systems Theory

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The Health Communication Advocacy Model is consistent with the principles of systems theory, which posits that a system is complex and relies on interdependent component parts (Miller, 2012). Initially, systems theory was introduced by biologist Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, as a concept that could help explain how a physical system, a plant, operates (Von Bertalanffy, 1968). Although in the social sciences, systems theory typically is applied in organizational contexts (e.g., business operations), this chapter considers how systems theory can be applied to guide how a health advocacy campaign operates as a dynamic system. Specifically, systems theory will be used to explain the properties and mechanisms of the Health Communication Advocacy Model. We begin by explaining what systems theory is and how systems theory is a metatheory. Thereafter, the chapter considers the Health Communication Advocacy Model through the lens of systems theory, including the properties, components, and processes inherent in the model.

Metatheory is the analysis and examination of theories (Haas & Mattson, 2015; Zhao, 1991). That is to say, metatheory is a theory of theories. For ← 19 | 20 →example, when one examines an existing theory and revises the theory based on empirical findings and/or other theoretical input, metatheorizing would have taken place (see e.g., Mattson, 1999). A metatheory also may involve the combination of theories to develop a new theory or concept. Systems theory is a metatheory in part because ideas from biology were borrowed to formulate a multidisciplinary theory that also could be applied in the social sciences...

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