BMSG: Where we've been and where we're going

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Writing BMSG's inaugural blog forces me to take stock of where we are and where we're going. Could I have even imagined a blog, or any of the other new media innovations, when we opened our doors 18 years ago? Back then I looked forward to getting my next email -- imagine! -- but never anticipated how the onslaught of social media would challenge newspapers and other traditional news organizations.

In those days our biggest questions were about media advocacy, the strategic use of mass media to support community organizing and influence policy debate. Could we take what tobacco and alcohol control advocates had crafted and apply it to preventing violence? Hundreds of advocates across California working with us as part of The California Wellness Foundation's Violence Prevention Initiative proved we could. Using media advocacy to bolster their work, in community after community advocates ensured that there were fewer guns wreaking havoc in neighborhoods and more resources for prevention for young people across the state. They were one of the forces pushing rates of violence among youth in California down to the lowest levels ever recorded.

Since then we've learned to apply media advocacy to many issues that you can explore on these pages. And we've learned that despite the consistent patterns in how public health issues are framed, we have to renew and reinvent our framing strategies for each new campaign.

Framing battles are fierce these days. Government has been demonized beyond belief, budgets are getting cut -- it's so bad now that people are occupying town squares in cities across the nation to protest systems that favor the rich. In just one example, we've watched how food and beverage companies, who claim they want to be part of the solution, aggressively market junk food and sugary drinks and then raise their backs in defense at any mention of even voluntary guidelines for what products should be marketed to kids.

We still have questions about media advocacy: How can we help people see that environments matter to health as much as personal behavior? With newsrooms dwindling, how can we get the attention we need to press for public health? And as new media allow more people to raise their voices, how can we be sure they are heard, that their weight is felt by those in power?

It's easy to despair. But I refuse to do that because I know that the creativity and commitment we've witnessed working with advocates over the last 18 years will be matched and surpassed by those who will take up the mantle in the next 18.

I also know it won't be easy, and like everything we've ever done at BMSG, it will be done together, by people working in partnership. I hope you'll join us in that future and here on this blog, to question, debate, suggest, and refresh our thinking with the next best idea for making our world the healthiest it can be, for everyone.


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