Research!America Conducts Public Education Campaign to Increase Support for Public Health Research

Building strategic communications and advocacy skills of public health leaders

Field of Work: Public education campaign to build support for public health research.

Problem Synopsis: According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), by the late 1990s approximately half of all causes of mortality in the United States were linked to behavioral and social factors such as smoking, poor diet, alcohol use, sedentary lifestyle and accidents. Yet, less than 5 percent of the approximately $1 trillion spent annually on health care in the United States was devoted to reducing risks posted by these preventable conditions, according to a 2000 IOM report. The authors of the report concluded that greater investments in prevention and public health research are essential to risk reduction.

In 2000, Research!America conducted a study to determine if and how compelling messages about the importance of investing in prevention research could be developed and conveyed to the public and elected officials. The opinion poll of politicians, public health professionals and the media showed support for prevention research, but indicated that a strategy was necessary to ensure increased public awareness of, and support for, enhanced investments.

Synopsis of the Work: From 2001 to 2006, staff at Research!America conducted a national public education campaign to increase support for public health research by training public health professionals in communications, messaging and building relationships with policy-makers and the media; and directing a media campaign at policy-makers in Washington that focused on the benefits of prevention.

Key Results: Project staff conducted:

  • An intensive one-day advocacy training workshop in Washington on basic communications skills for 62 public health professionals from 32 states.
  • A one-day communications workshop for 52 community activists from 17 states involved in a range of public health issues.
  • Almost 90 public health advocacy programs across the country, including 40 workshops and 28 media/science forums, addressing issues relevant to local areas.
  • A media campaign on public health issues—chronic disease, injury and childhood obesity—less recognized by policy-makers than, say, preventing infectious disease.
  • A national day of recognition for state and local public health professionals.
  • Advocacy workshops in six cities, with 92 percent of the 277 trainees reporting afterwards they had new skills to more effectively advocate for public health.