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APHA campaign shares tools that make public health advocacy easy.

AUGUST'S congressional recess is a great time for public health advocates to act in their own backyards. APHA's Public Health Action campaign makes advocacy easier than ever.

PHACT is an easy-to-use repository of tools to make reaching out to elected officials on public health topics simple and worry-free. For more than a decade, PHACT has offered APHA members and others the material they need to be effective advocates on a host of public health topics.

This year, reaching out to elected officials is especially important, with health care access, funding for public health and mitigating climate change hanging in the balance during the current congressional session, said Nicole Burda, MPH, APHA's deputy director of government relations. And advocates do not have to go far to make their voices heard: In August, members of Congress spend time in their home districts, so public health proponents have greater access to their elected officials than most other times of the year.

PHACT helps advocates prepare for reaching out to representatives and senators with a wide variety of tools, from templates for writing opinion editorials and letters to the editor to tips for speaking at a town hall or public meeting.

The campaign includes a how-to on meeting with members of Congress and state-by-state fact sheets to tailor messaging to communities.

This month, advocates can have a big impact, from calling their members of Congress or sending an action alert message on one of APHA's priorities, to meeting elected officials in their local offices and inviting lawmakers to attend events, Burda said.

Even first-time advocates, or people who might be nervous speaking publicly, can use PHACT tools, such as scripts for phone conversations or town hall questions and a tip sheet for arranging meetings, to make advocacy an easy lift.

"APHA members are public health experts, and they're experts on their communities," Burda told The Nation's Health. "They're the owners of their life experiences, and their voices have weight with their elected officials. PHACT makes taking steps toward advocacy easier, and offers different levels based on people's time and comfort levels."

People who are shy about public speaking can use one of the PHACT scripts for guidance, or bring a friend or colleague with them for support, Burda suggested. She added that bringing a buddy both grows the number of public health advocates and adds weight to messages, as elected officials will see that public health has strong backing in their districts.

Burda also noted that taking a first small step can often open the door to more and deeper advocacy --and that during the August recess, members of Congress can be especially receptive to meeting with their constituents.

"If there's a photo opportunity, or the potential to be seen working within their communities, members are often happy to speak with you," she said. "Using the PHACT tools, particularly the state fact sheets, can help tailor your message. It doesn't have to be hard or time-consuming, but reaching out now can have a big impact on the future of public health."

Congressional recess ends Sept. 4, but the PHACT campaign tools are available year-round, including a timeline that can help target efforts throughout the year.

For more, visit www. apha.org/phact.

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Author:Wahowiak, Lindsey
Publication:The Nation's Health
Date:Aug 1, 2017
Words:538
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