Public Health advocacy in Scotland during 2017

This blog provides a quick summary of two health/ public health advocacy campaigns in Scotland, both launched at Scottish Parliament during 2017.

Advocacy is an important part of Public Health work. The Public Health Advocacy Institute of Western Australia provides the following definition in their advocacy toolkit:

The word ‘advocate’ actually comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to be called to stand beside’. Advocacy can be thought of as “the pursuit of influencing outcomes – including public policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions – that directly affect people’s lives.”

The “State of Child Health” report was launched by Royal College of Physicians and Child Health on 26 January 2017, with events across the UK, including a RCPCH Scotland event at Scottish Parliament. I have summarised the Twitter activity around that day here.

The “Fairer Lives Healthier Future” call to action was launched by the Faculty of Public Health in Scotland on 20 September, with events at the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh and Scottish Parliament. Twitter activity during and after the launch is summarised here.

Both launches had senior level support from a range of health organisations, charities, and individuals, including politicians. They both provided paper copies of the report, produced press releases and had coordinated social media campaigns. Presentations were followed by debate, with comments from a wide range of stakeholders. Attention was focused on a small number of topical and important issues, with further information (infographics, graphs, quotes) to back up individual points. Promotion started before the events and has continued subsequently. There was public health representation at the RCPCH launch, and child health representation at the FPH in Scotland event. These campaigns therefore met many of the components of the “advocacy wheel”.

Figure 1: The Advocacy Wheel

Advocacy wheel and other figures

Source: PHAIWA advocacy toolkit

The priorities for action are summarised at the end of this blog. As RCPCH Scottish Officer Professor Steve Turner noted at the Healthy Lives Fairer Futures launch, there are important areas of common interest including reducing:

  • child poverty
  • adverse childhood experiences
  • childhood obesity through activities including action on the built environment and active travel.

As highlighted in the advocacy wheel, e-advocacy is an important part of advocacy work. Social  media activity was an important part of both launches and can be used to study the reach of the campaigns. Further information is provided in the Storify summaries referenced above. Having refined the techniques over past months more detailed information is available for the FPH in Scotland launch, including a social network analysis using NodeXL (figure 2), the top tweet analysis produced for the Storify summaries, and a world map of tweeters and retweeters (figure 3). This information helps to understand connections for progressing the priorities for action, but also demonstrates a global reach of this work. We can share our work, and learn from others, through tweeting.

A more recent NodeXL extract (1 October 2017) that looked at health inequalities and poverty tweets across the world over the preceding 9 days, featured 3 tweets about the FPH in Scotland launch in the top 100 tweets. Scotland features prominently in this global list, with tweets about health inequalities work in general and posts about specific events and activities. There was targeted work on improving the quality and impact of public health tweeting in Scotland during 2016, as written up in the Journal of Public Health.

Figure 2: Social network analysis for #HealthyLivesFairerFutures launch, 20 September 2017. NodeXL map (animated using EzGif)


Source: NodeXL (click for full report)

Figure 3: Map of tweets and retweets for #HealthyLivesFairerFutures launch, 20 September 2017 

HLFF map

Source: FollowTheHashtag – click for full report

Work on the RCPCH and FPH in Scotland priorities is ongoing, and activities in the real world and social media continue. Collaboration and coordination between all the stakeholders represented at the two launches will be an important part of this work. You can contribute through RCPCH Scotland and FPH in Scotland, and can share suggestions on social media or by commenting on this blog.

Dr Graham Mackenzie, Consultant in Public Health, NHS Lothian, 4 October 2017


The RCPCH priorities for Scotland are:

1) Publish and implement the Child and Adolescent Health and Wellbeing Strategy

2) Reduce the number of child deaths

3) Develop integrated health and care statistics

4) Develop research capacity to drive improvements in children’s health

5) Reduce child poverty and inequality

6) Maximise women’s health before, during and after pregnancy

7) Introduce statutory sex and relationships education in all schools

8) Strengthen tobacco control

9) Tackle childhood obesity effectively

10) Maximise mental health and wellbeing throughout childhood

11) Tailor the health system to meet the needs of children, young people, their parents and carers

12) Implementing guidance and standards

Source: RCPCH Scotland recommendations

The FPH in Scotland priorities are: 

Health in all policies
1. Include health in all policies for Scotland.

Reduce health inequalities
2. Make taxation more progressive, including income tax, to reduce inequalities.
3. Mitigate the adverse impacts of welfare reform on our most vulnerable.
4. Introduce a minimum wage for healthy living.

Improve health for future generations
5. Reduce child poverty and mitigate its adverse impacts.
6. Prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Create healthy places 
7. Use the Community Empowerment Act to improve population mental health.
8. Increase investment in integrated public transport and active travel and prioritise walking and cycling in the built environment.

Source: Fairer Lives Healthier Future


One thought on “Public Health advocacy in Scotland during 2017

  1. Pingback: Increasing the quality and impact of Public Health tweeting – looking beyond #ScotPublicHealth – #ScotPublicHealth

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