Advocacy for Public Health Policy Change: An Urgent Imperative helps everyone be better agents for change

Date: Oct 21 2020

Media Relations

At a time when strong public health advocates are needed more than ever, Advocacy for Public Health Policy Change: An Urgent Imperative, offers a passionate manifesto and roadmap to achieve systemic health equity reforms.

Published by APHA Press, an imprint of the American Public Health Association, the book uses data and stories to illustrate how to develop advocacy skills that translate public health knowledge and science into public policy beyond academic papers and classrooms.

The authors, Harry M. Snyder, JD, and Tony B. Iton, MD, JD, MPH — colleagues and co-lecturers at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health — make their compelling arguments at the vortex of the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing demands for racial justice and health equity.

Snyder and Iton show that public health is essentially political, describing the effectiveness of public health practitioners over the years who directly engaged in policymaking.

They highlight how hands-on policymaking roles by public health advocates during the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in helping vulnerable populations in a myriad of ways, among those: preventing evictions, providing more meals for needy children and adding health coverage for undocumented residents within their communities. 

“When you look historically, significant public health battles have been driven by public health advocates,” Iton said. “That was true of tobacco and seat belts and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. But public health advocates also have targeted health disparities and racism. Here in the 21st century, we have more acute challenges in that realm.”

At the same time, public health can get bogged down in academia, shielding itself from real world public health problems, the authors said.

Academic training often rewards publications of scientific work but does not consider the essential advocacy that has historically overcome day-to-day community struggles, exemplified by the pandemic and the call for racial justice, Snyder said.

“The metric for success often is: ‘can I get published?’” he said, emphasizing the greater purpose to “help people.”

“Public health is the one discipline that utilizes advocacy to drive policy change, not just in the science of health but also in equity and social justice and to make a difference,” Iton said. “It is both a process and an outcome.”

For review copy requests, please contact David Hartogs.

Harry M. Snyder, JD, is a lecturer in health policy and management, an advocacy leader in residence at the Center for Public Health Practice and Leadership and Lecturer of Health Policy and Management at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. He was a longtime senior advocate for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.

Anthony “Tony” Iton is lecturer of Health Policy and Management at UC Berkeley School of Public Health. He also is senior vice president for Healthy Communities at The California Endowment, which supports communities’ capacity to advocate for their health needs.



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