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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 3. Assembling the Team

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Before a health advocacy initiative can begin, an advocacy team must first be assembled. The members in an advocacy team may include health issue experts, community partners, public health and/or communication specialists, and a lobbyist. Each of these members plays a significant and unique role in advancing an advocacy team toward its goal.

Health issue experts are professionals with specialized knowledge in a particular health area. For instance, an expert about ovarian cancer would be a gynecologic oncologist (see e.g., Earle et al., 2006). Other examples of experts include physiotherapists for amputee rehabilitation, nurses for palliative care, surgeons for surgical procedures, and so on. Patients also can be health issue experts because of their knowledge of and experience with the health issue. The benefits they can bring to the team are primarily twofold: health experts can lend credibility to the team and can help to avoid making medical-related mistakes.

← 29 | 30 →Health issue experts can transfer their credibility to a group. This is well supported by halo-effect studies reported in psychology and marketing literature (see e.g., Leuthesser, Kohli, & Harich, 1995). The reputation of health experts such as doctors can build the reputation of a group. When reputation is strong and the message source is believable, the recipient of the message is more likely to have a favorable initial hearing and is more likely to be influenced by the message (Herbig & Milewicz, 1995). Furthermore, should recipients be unmotivated to process messages, the presence of experts...

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