09 Feb 2017 Advocacy Efforts: Staying Focused on Our Goals
Article posted on February 9, 2017.
Refining the policy ask, leveraging partnerships, and using evidence-based messaging are critical to keeping child health funded
- We want to encourage governments in the US, UK, Canada and others to maintain their foreign aid funding.
- As we continue to gain more insights about political landscapes, partnerships will be more important than ever.
- We will need to expand the evidence base and provide evidence in new areas that further the messages about economics, equity, and even security.
By Lois Privor-Dumm
Managing Director and Team Lead of Policy, Advocacy and Communications
International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC)
There are three questions I often ask my team to keep strategy discussions on course: What do we want? Who can make it happen? And what do they need to hear?
As child health advocates huddle to plan for 2017, these foundational questions can ground us during times of political uncertainty, when concerns are swirling around how to protect progress made in global maternal, neonatal, and child health. I’m positive that the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia is equipped to stay the course.
Although there are still many unknowns, we are clear about the importance of protecting young lives and promoting equity—a goal which transcends the political priorities du jour and can be strengthened through additional justifications that speak to the important goals of each administration.
What do we want? Sustained funding and continued focus to defeat childhood killers.
We want to encourage governments in the US, UK, Canada and others to maintain their foreign aid funding, particularly towards maternal and child health. Advocates can brush up on past foreign aid spending and stay informed on plans for 2017 by visiting the US Foreign Assistance data visualization tool, the Canadian International Development Platform, and the UK Government’s Development Tracker.
We recognize that these investments are under more scrutiny in both the US and in the UK, where leaders have called for investing more in their own countries and less on overseas neighbors in need. Even Canada, where a new Liberal government took hold in 2015, is experiencing an all-time low in funds spent on international assistance. There is still a strong rationale to safeguard these investments—not only to protect those overseas, but also to protect interests domestically.
We want to remind policymakers of the vast improvements to child mortality, thanks in large part to their generous support and countries’ focus on the leading childhood killers. Let’s advocate for a continued priority on improving child health around the world.
Who can make it happen? Partnerships of diverse stakeholders.
As we continue to gain more insights about political landscapes in the US, UK, and Canada, partnerships will be more important than ever. Those who work closely with government bodies will certainly reach out to their contacts and stay abreast of policy changes. We can remind policymakers of their commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030—a global initiative that depends on active partnership.
At the same time, we will strengthen our efforts to not only mobilize our base, but also reach out to new partners. When diverse technical experts, from sectors of environment to economics, come together with public health professionals, celebrities, pediatricians, and parents, our resounding advocacy for children cannot be ignored. As our understanding of government priorities evolves, so should our understanding of the landscape of other advocates with shared visions of a healthier and more secure world.
We will continue to showcase the leadership and commitment within countries, such as the initiatives of ministries of health and grass-roots organizations. They work tirelessly to protect their own people and expand the engagement in partnerships throughout the world.
What do they need to hear? The facts, but in context of a new set of priorities.
Here is the tricky part. There is no change with policymakers asking about the value of their investments, but they may do so with a different lens of priorities. We will continue to present the scientific data that can lead to evidence-based policy, and remind policymakers that the fight against pneumonia and diarrhea is the right investment.
Improving the health and well-being of families is a gradual process whose dividends are revealed over decades—and we have the data to illustrate steady progress. We will need to expand the evidence base and provide evidence in new areas that further the messages about economics, equity, and even security. Given the increased skepticism about the value of aid, demonstrating the benefit to the domestic investor is all the more important and we will need your help.
IVAC is working on the Value of Immunization Compendium of Evidence (VoICE) tool to showcase new messages and the evidence that supports it. We are entering into the beta testing phase where advocates can not only test out the database and messaging, but also contribute to it and support it. Please contact us if you are interested in providing your input.
Our partners are also focusing their efforts on reshaping communication. The human experience is necessary to telling the story and moving policymakers to act. Sometimes that’s done through writing, videos, or even virtual reality. The Narrative Project, produced by InterAction, provides guidance on positive communication strategies to build support for development. Based on their research, messages that resonate best include:
- empowering the poorest communities to become independent (NOT dependence)
- recognizing the potential of healthier communities (NOT hopeless suffering)
- emphasizing active partnership (NOT passive charity)
PATH applied the techniques to conduct the “Tell Better Stories” study. The result: the beginning of an evidence base on how to build support for maternal and child health through advocacy videos.
I encourage you to save these resources and refer to them often in 2017. Please share your advocacy resources and we will highlight them for the Coalition, so we can collectively benefit.
Holding governments to their commitments, elevating our partnerships, and using evidence-based messaging will help us stay focused this year. We’re looking forward to some interesting discussions, as well as new and creative actions.
Lois Privor-Dumm, IMBA, is the Managing Director and Team Lead of Policy, Advocacy and Communications at the International Vaccine Access Center. Lois and her group have been catalytic in founding and supporting global and national advocacy efforts, including the ROTA Council and World Pneumonia Day, which have leveraged champions to raise awareness and political support for the funding and implementation of programs to prevent childhood disease.