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New book highlights the important role of public health advocacy

Public health research has been a driver of policy change, leading to shifts in tobacco regulations, domestic violence policies, HIV/AIDS care and prevention policy, and more. But the research alone would get little attention without the strong voice of advocacy.

A new book from Anthony Iton and Harry Snyder, health policy and management lecturers at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, showcases the important relationship between advocacy and research in public health. Published by the American Public Health Association, Advocacy for Public Health Policy Change: An Urgent Imperative emphasizes that it is advocacy that truly drives forward changes in public health policy.

“The most impactful public health victories over the past 50 years have been the product of public health advocacy,” Iton said. “This book was created to help build a solid bridge for students to be able to marry their traditional public health academic skills with those skills, techniques, and strategies required for powerful, innovative, and effective public health advocacy.”

According to Iton and Snyder, it’s important for those in the field of public health to have familiarity with policy-making so that their research can be translated into positive change and advocacy going forward.

Iton and Snyder also co-teach a Berkeley Public Health course called Health Policy Advocacy, in which students produce campaigns to influence policy change.

“We wrote the book to make advocacy skills more broadly available in the public health field,” Snyder said. “We show that the policy-making process is a methodology that is understandable, teachable, doable, and necessary in order to encourage public health professionals to step up to the challenge.”

Both authors find that while public health data and analysis are important in achieving significant changes in policy they emphasize the harmonious quality of synthesizing both advocacy and research.

“Traditional public health skills are critical to advancing healthy social policy,” Iton said. “However, while these traditional public health skills are necessary, they are not sufficient. Well-honed and proven advocacy techniques and strategy are essential to successful policy change.”

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