Skip to content

Public Health Advocacy

Course Number
4000 (Doctor of Public Health)
Course Instructor(s)
Robert Steiner, Kate Mulligan

Course Description

Smart ideas don’t sell themselves. Once you’ve developed strong evidence-based policy, your next step as a public health leader is to spark political and public change. This course will focus on impact: You’ll learn how to change the public and political discussions around your field, whatever your field is. Specifically, you’ll learn how to build an integrated advocacy plan from its elements:
– Shaping a public health organization to undertake public advocacy;
– Mitigating the risk of polarization, while embracing urgency;
– Using journalism disciplines to shape a public discussion around that advocacy;
– Focusing on actionable policy requests and targeting specific decision-makers;
– Building alliances with other organizations that will be effective in advocating for the targeted policy.

This course will mentor you as a current public health leader, already facing an urgent need to create change in your field. We’ll teach using frameworks, but with a heavy emphasis on application; you’ll learn these skills in the context of the very issues that are your day-to-day focus, at work or in your DrPH.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, we want you to have strategies you can deploy right away if you choose – and a framework you can apply to your future impact work. Specifically, you will gain an introductory understanding of:

  • Institutional and social contexts for advocacy:
    o How to orient public health organizations to participate in the public discussion, based on theories of change;
    o How to understand and assess polarization as a social determinant of health and how to balance the political value of polarization with mitigation of its risks;
  • How to shape the public environment within which advocacy happens by using journalism disciplines, and by working effectively with journalists;
  • How to shape the way political decision-makers discuss policy options by:
    o Understanding theories of policy and practice change;
    o Formulating actionable policy asks;
    o Participating in formal political and policy processes;
    o Building effective political alliances;
    o Working with community organizations and Indigenous governments;
  • How to use Public Health crisis management as a foundation for trust in public health.

The course will also help build a range of CEPH competencies for the DrPH, particularly in the domains of “Leadership, Governance and Management”, and “Programs and Policy”.

Methods of Assessment

Participation 20%
Peer Feedback 10%
Story/Idea Pitch 20%
Scholarly Paper 20%
Integrated Advocacy Plan and Presentation 30%