Category Archives: Grassroots Public Health

Oct 3 2013
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Grassroots Public Health and Fire Sprinklers: Mobilizing Communities for Safety

marjorie_paloma_hz_1_c Marjorie Paloma, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Home fires account for 85 percent of fire deaths in the United States, yet the majority of family homes lack fire sprinklers. Since the late 1970s, a grassroots movement has successfully promoted close to 400 local ordinances that mandate fire sprinklers in all new residential construction. In response, the homebuilding industry has sought out state preemption of local authority, a strategy used by other industries as well, in an effort to reduce costs and shield profits. A new study just published in the American Journal of Public Health looks at grassroots public health movements, including the one mobilized to push back against preempting residential fire sprinklers.

To learn more about how preemption can have a negative impact on public health, NewPublicHealth spoke with Marjorie Paloma, MPH, senior policy adviser and senior program officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Group, and a co-author of the new AJPH article on preemption, grassroots efforts and public health.

NewPublicHealth: How does the effort to increase installed sprinklers in the U.S. add to the conversation on the grassroots public health movement?

Marjorie Paloma: The residential fire sprinkler story illustrates the power of grassroots movements and the chilling effect preemption can have. I use power very explicitly because when you look at the residential sprinklers movement, over time, you see how much power people have when they come together and act. Families who lost someone to fire, fire officials and others came together first in local communities and then across the nation to advocate sprinklers and save lives. The new article in the American Journal of Public Health shows that over three decades, 34 states passed legislation on this — over 350 local ordinances — and I think that this example shows you the arc of a grassroots movement. This example also shows how powerful preemptive legislation is on a grassroots movement. In those two years between 2009 and 2011, 13 states passed preemptive legislation and that essentially pulled the wind out of the sails of advocates who had been working on this issue. And, it shows you how that tactic, that strategy of preemption can really deflate, thwart, and potentially kill a movement.

NPH: How does the grassroots movement intervene and explain what the impact of preemption is on movements that promote health?

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Aug 19 2013
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Grassroots Fire Prevention: Q&A California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover

file Chief Tonya Hoover

NewPublicHealth is partnering with Grassroots Change: Connecting for Better Health to share interviews, tools, and other resources on grassroots public health. The project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Group supports grassroots leaders as they build and sustain public health movements at the local, state and national levels.

In this excerpted Q&A, conducted by Grassroots Change, California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover shared her thoughts on a quiet but highly successful public health movement: fire sprinkler requirements as a cost-effective measure to reduce civilian deaths, injuries, and property damage while protecting fire fighters and the natural environment. Tonya Hoover is a 20-year veteran of the fire service and an experienced advocate for fire prevention. She has promoted residential fire sprinkler ordinances as a local fire marshal in California and a statewide requirement that went into effect on January 1, 2011.

>>Read the full Q&A on GrassrootsChange.net.

Grassroots Change: Tell us about the grassroots movement for residential fire sprinklers.

Tonya Hoover: California has seen the passage of residential sprinkler laws since the first local adoption in San Clemente in 1978. Since that time, over 160 local ordinances have passed [fire sprinkler requirements for all new construction, including 1- and 2-family homes].

Other states have also adopted residential sprinkler ordinances for many years. Residential sprinklers aren’t new. What is new is they’re getting their time in the sun with the public because we already sprinkler apartments and larger buildings. People are used to seeing sprinklers in commercial buildings and office spaces. Most apartments in California – the complexes that have been going up in the past 20-25 years – have sprinklers. We hope to get people to look up and say: “Why isn’t my house sprinklered? This is supposed to be my safe haven.”

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May 2 2013
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Grassroots Public Health: Q&A with Shannon Frattaroli

Shannon Frattaroli, PhD, Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Injury Research and Policy Shannon Frattaroli, PhD, Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Injury Research and Policy

NewPublicHealth is partnering with Grassroots Change: Connecting for Better Health to share interviews, tools, and other resources on grassroots public health. The project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Group supports grassroots leaders as they build and sustain public health movements at the local, state and national levels.

In this Q&A, conducted by Grassroots Change, Shannon Frattaroli, PhD, Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Injury Research and Policy, shares her perspective on grassroots power and the future of public health. Her research helps answer two critical questions: Why are grassroots movements so important; and what is a public health movement, anyway?

>> Frattaroli’s interview has been edited for NewPublicHealth. View the full interview at GrassrootsChange.net.

Grassroots Change: What do you see as the role of grassroots movements in public health?

Shannon Frattaroli: There’s tremendous potential. Public health at its core is about the public. The public should have a voice in public health, and grassroots movements are one way for that to happen. The public has been very engaged in policy issues or problems throughout the history of public health. When people get engaged and are strategic with regard to policy change, things can happen quickly. And change can happen in a way that feels more legitimate. I think it’s where we should be moving in the future.

GC: What does “grassroots movement” mean? How are grassroots health movements different from other types of advocacy?

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Apr 17 2013
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Grassroots Public Health: Q&A with Jill Birnbaum, American Heart Association

Jill Birnbaum, American Heart Association Jill Birnbaum, American Heart Association

Jill Birnbaum is an advocate for nutrition policy, tobacco control, and health care reform who has worked at the federal, state, and local levels. Her work began in Minnesota, and she now oversees state advocacy for the American Heart Association. Her grassroots experience, combined with her national role, gives her unique insights into public health policy at all levels of government. 

This is the first in a two-part interview conducted by Grassroots Change: Connecting for Better Health, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Group. In part one, Jill shares her perspective on grassroots movements and the threat of preemption in the obesity prevention arena. Preemption can take away the ability of states and local communities to adopt innovative solutions to their own public health problems in a way that responds to each community’s unique needs.

>>View the original posting of this interview over at GrassrootsChange.net.
>>Read more on preemption and grassroots movement building.

Grassroots Change: What do you see as the impact of preemption in public health, especially in obesity prevention?

Jill Birnbaum: [Preemption] slows or even ends grassroots movements before they begin. It also drains our resources for future advocacy efforts. We leave it to the next generation of public health advocates to undo policy compromises that we make today. We’re still seeing that in a few states with tobacco, and anticipating the fights both at the federal and state levels that we might have to undo someday [in obesity prevention]. 

Preemption stifles innovation, and it also makes some assumptions that can be wrong. It assumes that we know everything today and that there’s nothing more that we have to learn tomorrow. That’s especially true in nutrition policy where science continues to evolve and policy needs to evolve along with the science. 

Preemption also has the effect of dividing the [public health] community when a small group of people, in some cases even a single individual or organization, negotiates away something that other people really want.

GC: Are the concerns about preemption in obesity prevention mostly about nutrition policy? There doesn’t seem to be a major effort to preempt local physical activity policies. 

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