Name just about any disease or health problem and, chances are, low-income people or people of color are more likely to suffer from it. Yet historically, the mass media have largely ignored the connection between power (social, economic and political) and health. Instead, they have presented health issues in medical terms, with a focus on personal health habits, physician heroics or technological breakthroughs. Similarly, social and health programs often focus on giving people skills to beat the odds rather than changing the structural barriers to having successful and healthy lives. Though individual behavior plays a role in health, in the long run, it makes more sense -- and is more just -- to eliminate barriers and change the odds so that everyone can be healthy.
the path to success
Real improvements in health will not come so much from increases in personal health knowledge or changes in individual behaviors as from improvements in social conditions. Policies that improve access to affordable housing, healthy food, quality early care and education, and safe neighborhoods, to name a few, all help people live healthy lives.
At BMSG, we work with advocates to shift power away from the status quo back to their communities. We do this by helping advocates develop or fine-tune their strategies so they can make better use of the media to influence how policy makers think about health and advance policies that improve the social determinants of health.
Advocacy is about more than winning a particular policy change. It's about values and relationships -- and that requires dialogue. In this video, Francisco (Pancho) Argüelles, executive director of the Living Hope Wheelchair Association, encourages us to open the space for conversation so that we can become better allies to communities struggling for justice.