Achieving Health Equity through Advocacy

Health equity means ensuring that all people have the opportunity to attain their highest level of health. Achieving health equity has been a consistent objective among healthcare professionals, researchers and policymakers for decades. Many factors contribute to the inequities that exist between groups, including insufficient access to health and social services, social determinants of health, poor health literacy and lack of culturally appropriate services. Addressing these factors is contingent upon an array of things but the strength of the community has a sustaining impact on health disparities and equity.

Grassroots efforts such as community coalition’s initiatives, can be most effective by implementing strategies to address preventable chronic diseases that plague the community. Successful prevention interventions involve a multilevel approach. The socioecological model for health promotion that incites behavior change targets individual, interpersonal, community, organizational and policy level changes. The model is a theory base for community prevention efforts and targets factors that contribute to behaviors that have adverse effect on one’s health. When prevention efforts involve a multilevel approach or are classified as environmental strategies, then there’s a greater probability of reaching the larger community as opposed to a single individual.

A coalition may outline an approach to target prevention of a chronic disease but success of said intervention relies on how well the coalition leads advocacy efforts in that community. If a coalition is federally funded, there is some advocacy “red tape.” A few tips to guide your advocacy efforts are outlined within this article.

Advocacy is activities that seek to bring about systemic social change. Examples of these activities are as follows:

§ Policy education– raising awareness among the general public, government official, and/or legislations about evidenced-based strategies/polices that are effective in reducing the burden of chronic disease.

§ Issue organizing– prioritizing problems within the community and developing a plan to mobilize the community to be catalyst of change.

§ Lobbying

  • Direct Lobbying- any communication with a legislator, employee of a legislative body or with a government official that expresses a view about specific legislation.
  • Grassroots Lobbying- any communication with the general public that expresses a view about specific legislation and includes a call to action.

Coalitions that are not federally funded can engage in all three levels of advocacy. However, if you are a recipient of federal funds proceed with caution when lobbying. In general, you can share your opinion on existing legislation but you cannot include a call to action in your discussion. What’s a call to action?

(1) Asking the public to contact their legislators or their staff

(2) Providing the address, phone number, Web site, or other contact information for the legislators

(3) Providing a mechanism to contact legislators such as a tear-off postcard, petition, letter, or e-mail link to send a message directly to the legislators;

(4) Listing the recipient’s legislator, the names of legislators voting on a bill, or those undecided or opposed to an organization’s view on the legislation.

(5) Asking legislators to vote for or against a bill or amendment.

If you forget everything mentioned in this article, just remember this rule of thumb…

[i] American Public Health Association. Health Equity. Available at https://www.apha.org/topics-and-issues/health-equity.

[ii] Retrieved from The American Bar Association https://apps.americanbar.org/buslaw/blt/2009-03-04/mehta.shtml