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Research & Policy

The fight for public health: Principles and practice of media advocacy
Simon Chapman and Deborah Lupton

This manual describes successful strategies for getting the media to pay attention to public health issues such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drug problems. The authors first lay the theoretical groundwork for media advocacy: understanding what public health advocacy is, reviewing the international research evidence on how health issues are portrayed in the media and how media coverage has significantly changed public knowledge and understanding of the issues, how news media are analyzed for health issue coverage, why a health issue is selected as newsworthy, and how favorable and negative advocacy groups "frame" health issues. The authors then use an A-Z format illustrated with case studies to explain the techniques, tactics, and obstacles involved with media advocacy, ranging from accuracy, bluff, bureaucratic constraints, columnists, letters to the editor, use of celebrities, and learning from other campaigns, to the use of talkback radio and whistleblowers.

They define public health advocacy, also called lobbying, as the process of overcoming political, economic, or cultural barriers to public health goals. The goal is to change the legal, financial, physical, and social arenas that influence individual knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. A prime example is Australia's successful sixteen-year drive to eliminate all tobacco product advertising. Advocacy can be aimed at government policies, regulations, or practices, the behavior of large institutions, commercial business-marketing practices, or lobbying the groups that impede public health. The authors emphasize the importance of prevention and of viewing public health advocacy efforts as connected - rather than random events. The goal is to help the public see an issue as important and to encourage policymakers to act.

BMJ Publishing Group
Distributed by American College of Physicians
P.O. Box 777-R-0270
Philadelphia, PA 19175
(800) 523-1546 or (215) 351-2400
(1994, 270 pp.; $35)


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Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.