Tips for writing effective letters to the editor

Letters to the editor can signal community interest about a particular public health issue and send a message to policymakers. Here are some tips to help advocates craft compelling letters and increase their chances of getting published.

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Webinar: Findings and opportunities from an analysis of community violence and safety in California news

News coverage of violence shapes how the public and policymakers understand community violence and what should be done about it. With support from the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Department, BMSG and the Prevention Institute are exploring how to change the public discourse around violence. In this webinar, we discuss findings from a May 2015 analysis of recent California-based news coverage of community violence and implications for advocates from a range of sectors.

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Preventable or inevitable: How do community violence and community safety appear in California news?

Like other public health problems, community violence is preventable — but it's not often understood that way. As a first step toward changing the discourse around it, we analyzed California news reporting on community violence to understand how the issue is portrayed, who speaks in news coverage, and how solutions are discussed. View the analysis, or read related BMSG research on news about community safety.

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Preventable or inevitable: How could news about community safety appear in California business and education coverage?

Since community violence affects business and education, news coverage of those sectors should include information on violence and safety. In this paper, we explore how community violence appears in California news and identify opportunities for additional — and improved — coverage. View the report, or read related BMSG research on news about community safety.

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Video: Epigenetics and equity: The health and social impacts of racism and inequality

BMSG co-founder Larry Wallack, who directs public health studies at Portland State University, joins Rachael Banks, manager of Multnomah County's Healthy Birth initiative, to discuss a new area of science that shows how certain lifetime stresses create inheritable changes in our bodies. The science challenges prior understanding of genetic inheritance and has major implications for public policy that seeks to create equal health outcomes for communities of color.

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Webinar: The importance of language in advancing health equity

Health equity language is value laden and full of "shortcut" terminology. Many of our terms, such as "health equity," "social determinants of health" and "social justice," are often only meaningful to public health insiders — and sometimes not even to them. This webinar recording, featuring BMSG's Julieta Kusnir, explores commonly used public health terms and how such language can help or hinder advocates' work.

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Video: Communicating to create healthy communities: More than a message

Speaking at a November 2014 Place Matters Conference in Portland, Oregon, BMSG's Lori Dorfman discusses how advocates can use media advocacy to help amplify and accelerate community organizing efforts and advance policies that improve health. She explains why message is never first, discusses the limits of counter-marketing, and shares insights on framing.

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Politics over science: U.S. newspaper coverage of emergency contraception

In 2013, emergency contraception captured headlines when the FDA made Plan B One-Step available over the counter for women of any age. How did the news media cover this major milestone and the public debate leading up to it? In this paper, we explore how accurate journalists were in their reporting, what arguments for and against emergency contraception appeared in the news, whose voices were missing from coverage, and implications for advocates.

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Talking about trauma on Twitter: An overview of hashtags

One of the benefits of using social media is the opportunity to build relationships with individuals and organizations that are working on the same issues. In this study, we explore what hashtags advocates and others are using to discuss childhood trauma on Twitter and identify possible next steps for making the most of the conversation.

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Webinar: Fast-food fights: What can we learn from the news about fast-food land-use policies?

Strategic zoning and land-use policies can be an effective way to improve the environments that contribute to chronic health problems, but before advocates can implement land-use policies, they must first know how to make the case for them. In this webinar, Berkeley Media Studies Group, Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI), and ChangeLab Solutions discuss how fast-food land-use policy efforts are portrayed in the news and what this means for future policy efforts.

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Fast-food zoning for health: Lessons from newspaper coverage and legislative debates about land-use policies in U.S. communities, 2001-2013

Strategic zoning and land-use policies can be used to help foster healthy food environments. But is the health argument enough when making the case for these policies? With our colleagues at Public Health Advocacy Institute and ChangeLab Solutions, BMSG analyzed legislative debates and news depictions of fast-food land-use ordinances to help researchers, policymakers and public health advocates better understand the effectiveness of various arguments for and against zoning.

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Fast-food fights: News coverage of local efforts to improve food environments through land-use regulations, 2001-2013

Strategic zoning is a type of land-use planning that can be used to improve the environments that contribute to chronic health problems. But before advocates can implement zoning policy, they must first know how to make the case for it. This study analyzes news coverage and legal documentation of efforts to restrict fast-food restaurants to find out how such policies have are debated.

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Tobacco industry use of personal responsibility rhetoric in public relations and litigation: Disguising freedom to blame as freedom of choice

This study analyzes how the tobacco industry has used "freedom of choice" language and appeals to personal responsibility both in the media and in the courtroom to prevent litigation and blame consumers for the health consequences of using tobacco. Conducted with our colleagues at the Public Health Advocacy Institute, the study also looks at implications for other industries like soda and junk food, which have replicated and refined tobacco industry tactics.

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Big Soda's long shadow: news coverage of local proposals to tax sugar-sweetened beverages in Richmond, El Monte and Telluride

In 2012 and 2013, Richmond and El Monte, CA, and Telluride, CO, became the first communities in the country to vote on citywide sugary drink taxes. In the face of massive spending from the soda industry, all three proposals failed, but the vigorous public debates they inspired provide valuable insights for future policy efforts. BMSG analyzed local and national news coverage of the three proposals to find out what arguments were being made for and against the taxes, whose voices dominated the coverage, and what this means for advocates.

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Webinar: Social norms change and health equity

In this webinar, the second in a series from The California Endowment, BMSG Director Lori Dorfman and UC Berkeley doctoral candidate Katherine Schaff discuss lessons learned from advocates working to develop health-related media campaigns in Alameda County, California.

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Video: Soda & kids: A predatory relationship and how we can fight back

BMSG Director Lori Dorfman shares research on soda industry marketing in this panel, as part of a speaker series leading up to the November 2014 election, which featured soda tax ballot measures in Berkeley and San Francisco. Dorfman discusses how the soda industry has become the number one educator influencing what kids drink and the tactics it uses to target children of color.

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Video: Testimony of Pamela Mejia: How the news portrays domestic violence

At an October 14, 2014, hearing of the California Assembly Select Committee on Domestic Violence, BMSG Senior Media Researcher Pamela Mejia speaks about the influence of news coverage on the public's and policymakers' understanding of domestic violence and how to address it.

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Soda tax debates: An analysis of news coverage of the 2013 soda tax proposal in Telluride, Colorado

In 2013, the small mountain town of Telluride, Colorado, proposed a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks. Like two similar soda tax measures that came before it in Richmond and El Monte, California, the proposal failed. In this report, we analyze what arguments were made for and against the tax in the news, whose voices dominated the conversation, and how coverage of Telluride compared with that of Richmond and El Monte. Read more >

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Food and beverage marketing to youth

What tactics are food and beverage companies using to target youth — especially youth of color — with marketing for unhealthy products? How do kids' brains respond to seeing food ads and logos? Is industry self-regulation working? In this paper, BMSG's Andrew Cheyne, Pamela Mejia, Laura Nixon and Lori Dorfman explore these questions and discuss implications for policy interventions.

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Webinar: Creating effective health messaging

In this webinar, as part of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky's Health for a Change series, BMSG trainers Julieta Kusnir and Fernando Quintero help participants understand message development; describe the difference between media advocacy and health education messaging; and discuss how advocates can frame their messages to show the environmental context for health and demonstrate the need for policy change.

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encyclopedia of health communication
Advertising unhealthy foods to children

Despite the efforts of nutrition advocates and health educators, food and beverage companies are a major source of children's education about food, and most of the marketing messages they receive are for unhealthy products. In this entry for the Encyclopedia of Health Communication, we provide an overview of food marketing to kids, its link to health inequities in communities of color, and the policy landscape for intervening.

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Video: Engaging communications to create healthy environments

In this July 23 presentation for the 2014 Colorado Health Symposium, BMSG Director Lori Dorfman discusses why health education and data don't go far enough toward improving health at the population-level, and how communication, particularly media advocacy, can be used to change policy and create environments that better support health for everyone.

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Communicating about health equity: Showing the bigger picture to build healthier communities

How do we make the case for implementing wellness policies, for improving menu selections and all of the other community-wide healthy policy changes we want to see? Many professionals are working on health equity issues but have a hard time talking about it. In this webinar, Berkeley Media Studies Group reviews tools to help groups that are working to reframe and effectively communicate the importance of their efforts.

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The debate on regulating menthol cigarettes: Closing a dangerous loophole vs freedom of choice

Stoking fears of job loss and strategically positioning itself on the side of civil rights groups, the tobacco industry influenced news coverage of mentholated cigarettes — which disproportionately impact the health of African Americans — to prevent a ban on them, found researchers at BMSG and the Public Health Advocacy Institute in a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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Video: Corporations, consumption and protecting public health

Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes cause 7 out of every 10 deaths in the United States. In this video, BMSG's Lori Dorfman and public health attorney Michele Simon join Nicholas Freudenberg, author of Lethal but legal: Corporations, consumption and protecting public health, to discuss how the business practices of alcohol, tobacco, food and other industries are causing these illnesses and what tools, including policy, advocates can use to prevent them.

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