The Importance of Post-Election Advocacy in Public Health

Advocacy, Part 1

November 13, 2020

With a slew of newly elected officials in place, now’s the perfect time to advocate for public health! Whether a seat has changed on your city council, in your Mayor’s office, state legislature or Congressional district, the time immediately following an election provides a unique opportunity to shape local, state, and federal priorities. Not only do legislative leaders look to develop new health policies during this time, but they also reassess the efficacy of existing ones. 

Recognizing the important role that advocacy priorities can have in shaping public health, APHA continues their work with decision-makers both before and after Election Day to address today's top health concerns. Alongside their members and state and regional Affiliates, APHA pushes for the development of key public health programs, services and policies. However, the role of advocate isn’t limited to being a public health professional. All individuals, even those outside of the public health sector, can advocate for health policy decisions. Everyone has the ability to influence lawmakers on issues related to public health as “context experts” and to use what they see, hear, and experience as a catalyst for improved health outcomes.

“From ensuring adequate investments in public health funding, to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, to protecting the public’s health from the impacts of climate change, public health advocates have an important voice that carries a lot of weight with decision makers,” APHA’s Director of Government Relations Donald Hoppert said.

How can you advocate for public health?

  • Coordinate meetings with, email, or call elected leaders to discuss key public health priorities
  • Identify local health interventions and share success stories within a community in order to start a conversation around health concerns and highlight best practices
  • Invite elected leaders to the site of your work and give them an opportunity to walk away with their own stories
  • Get friends and family involved in spreading the word on community needs  
  • Write op-eds and letters to local newspapers to highlight local health disparities or using social media to spread awareness

When it comes to advocating for change within the food system, HCCC project teams help organize individuals and organizations in their communities to educate and persuade policymakers about the importance of increasing food accessibility, at times by developing food policy councils. Here are the ways a few HCCC project teams plan to build out their advocacy efforts using a food policy council model:

  • The Pittsburgh team is helping formalize a resident leadership program with the goal of co-designing policy with leaders who have lived experiences of food and health inequities. The team also plans to connect their independent food policy council with leaders across city and county government to see what additional policies can be developed to increase food security within Pittsburgh.
  • The Rochester team will be creating a new food policy council whose structure and membership will be guided by community input and best practices developed by other food policy councils. Their food policy council will identify community policy priorities that will support access to foods that encourage health with guidance from local residents. 
  • The Dougherty County team is launching a food policy council with the purpose of enhancing health, equity, and sustainability within their local community. Their food policy council will be made up of diverse stakeholders who will work to create new policies that increase access to foods that promote health, all while expanding the reach of existing ones. 

Advocating for changes in the health system also requires engaging diverse resident leaders to inform policy changes. In Cambria County, for example, a community advisory committee and community health workers will identify barriers and solutions to increasing access to food/health services by using a Community Hub Model. Using data and findings from their work, they will encourage legislators to advocate for more resources and funding related to food and healthcare access. 

While we’ve highlighted a few different advocacy approaches, it is important to remember that being an advocate can take many forms. To learn more about how you can become a strong voice in public health advocacy, make sure to check APHA’s Speak For Health campaign!

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