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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 6. Messaging Process

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The messaging process within the Health Communication Advocacy Model (Mattson, 2010) is crucial. It is the stage during which the team’s position statement is translated into messages that are crafted to be as persuasive as possible in an effort to meet the team’s advocacy goals. The aim is to design messages that are compelling enough to encourage target audiences to be in favor of the team’s position statement on a health issue. This can be achieved if the team uses communication theories and concepts in developing its message. A caveat to note is that there are individual differences in receiving and responding to messages (Moore, Harris, & Chen, 1995; Venkatraman, Marlino, Kardes, & Sklar, 1990). However, the effects of communication concepts in message construction have been well documented (see e.g., Witte & Allen, 2000) and should be taken into account. In the messaging process stage, there are five key elements that an advocacy team must consider in crafting a message. The message needs to be: stimulating, motivational, eliminating barriers, culturally consistent, and within the resource capabilities of the organization.

Messages should be simple, straightforward, and framed in a way that would be optimal for the audience to comprehend the relevance of the message to ← 81 | 82 →the health issue (Randolph & Viswanath, 2004). A message also should grab the audience’s attention, and this can be done by arousing their emotions and through the use of visual and audio techniques.

Messages that are emotionally stimulating may instigate...

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