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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 4. Needs Assessment

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Before diving into an advocacy campaign, an advocacy team must first assess if an advocacy campaign is possible and warranted. An advocacy team should begin a campaign only if an advocacy effort is necessary to address a health issue and if it is possible to conduct an advocacy campaign. There may be situations when an advocacy effort is not necessary to address a health issue, such as curbing obesity because personal commitment to exercise may be more effective than a policy change that tackles obesity indirectly. Also, there may be circumstances when it is not possible to conduct an advocacy campaign, such as when there are many weaknesses in an advocacy team and many threats that deter the team from launching a campaign. To determine if an advocacy campaign is necessary and possible, an advocacy team can conduct a needs assessment. There are three parts to a comprehensive needs assessment: SWOT analysis, community asset mapping, and key informant interviews. An advocacy team can have greater confidence that an advocacy campaign is necessary and possible after the team completes these three aspects of a needs assessment.

A SWOT analysis is a marketing tool that examines the internal and external attributes that can affect a campaign (Mattson & Hall, 2011). This analysis helps a campaign team know what the strengths and weaknesses are in a team and what environmental factors may help or challenge the team and its efforts. Ultimately, it helps a campaign team know if it is possible...

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