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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 5. Formative Research

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After an advocacy team completes a needs assessment and ascertains that a particular health concern warrants an advocacy effort, the team proceeds to the formative research phase. In this phase, an advocacy team must gather statistical and related evidence that will inform the team about the advocated health issue. Also, the advocacy team must determine who its target audiences are. If this phase is executed well, an advocacy team will be able to craft more relevant advocacy messages because the team will have a better understanding of their target audiences and the advocated health issue. Also, due to its understanding of the target audiences, the advocacy team will be in a better position to anticipate possible reactions from target audience members.

Formative research begins with gathering statistical information regarding the advocated health issue. An advocacy team needs to collect statistical evidence that will address three aspects of the advocated health issue: the prevalence, problems, and forecast of the health issue. First, documenting the prevalence of the health issue aids people in comprehending how big a problem is. For example, the United States was projected to have 1,660,290 new cancer cases ← 63 | 64 →and 580,350 cancer deaths in 2013 (Siegel, Naishadham, & Jemal, 2013). This alarming figure certainly will capture the attention of some audiences as these statistics are significant. Also, an advocacy team that is advocating for a cancer-related issue must have a thorough understanding of what it is that they are advocating for, thus...

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