By Sheri Lawal, MPH, CHES, Program Analyst, Violence and Injury Prevention, NACCHO
The following is adapted from a guide NACCHO recently published to help LHDs communicate with local, state, and national decision-makers and stakeholders. View the guide.
Local health departments (LHDs) play an important role in coordinating the broader public health system’s efforts to address the causes of injury and violence and are well suited to guide decision-makers through policy, environment, and systems change. Making the case for injury and violence prevention support for LHDS includes development and communication of the right messages for the right audiences and using these messages to educate and inform local, state, and national decision-makers and stakeholders.
Creating the Message
A clear, succinct message is imperative to make a case to decision-makers, stakeholders, potential partners, and the public that unintentional injury and violence prevention are public health issues. People in communities may not always see the work LHDs do, but they are safer and healthier because of it. The following tips can help LHDs better communicate the message.
Know the Audience
An audience might include local decision-makers, stakeholders, policymakers, or the general public. Tailor messages appropriately, based on the audience’s perspective on injury and violence prevention (IVP). Think about which stakeholders to engage and their perspectives and strategically determine what they need to know and how they want to be addressed. Consider the following questions when tailoring messages:
• Who is the audience?
• What does the audience need to know?
• What do they already know?
• What is their attitude about the topic?
• How can one honor the audience’s needs?
Create a Fact Sheet
An IVP fact sheet is a one-page document that describes the local public health burden of injuries and violence and outlines the benefits of local public health programs to address these issues. See examples of fact sheets. Local stories, local people, and local data will be most interesting and persuasive to stakeholders.
Use local injury and violence data in your fact sheet to help define the public health problem in your community. The LHD can be an important partner in aggregating data from different sources in the community (e.g., state department of health, medical examiner, child death review, fetal infant mortality review, hospitals, judicial system, law enforcement, education).
Use local stories and highlight people in the community, impacted by injury and violence, to create a compelling justification for LHD support. Stories and examples are powerful tools to help ensure a message resonates with stakeholders and the public. Stories make data come alive and are a powerful tool for illustrating the problem of injury and violence. Talk about the people in the community who are affected, and not the programs, initiatives, or objectives. Tell stories to illustrate what the LHD seeks to accomplish. Although IVP covers many topics, focus on one topic to avoid overwhelming the audience. For examples of local stories, visit NACCHO’s Stories from the Field webpage at www.nacchostories.org.
Educate and Inform Stakeholders
LHDs can use fact sheets in many ways in order to educate, inform, and engage stakeholders. For example, LHDs may use fact sheets to help educate and orient board of health members, employees, community partners, and students, or may distribute fact sheets at local fairs, conferences, community meetings, and other community gatherings. When talking with decision-makers, stakeholders, and the general public about IVP, LHDs must avoid jargon, focus on outcomes, use stories and examples, and establish themselves as expert consultants on public health. LHDs must also abide by funders’ anti-lobbying restrictions on policy activities.
To learn more about developing fact sheets and communicating with stakeholders and policymakers about IVP, read NACCHO’s guide, Making the Case for Local Injury and Violence Prevention.
NACCHO’s IVP team also authored the article “Examination of Local Health Department Capacity and Infrastructure for Injury and Violence Prevention” in the November/December issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. Read the article.