Publications

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Soda tax debates in Berkeley and San Francisco: An analysis of social media, campaign materials and news coverage

In this news analysis, we explore what arguments pro- and anti-tax campaigns made, how the soda industry was characterized in news coverage, and what this means for advocates looking to reduce soda consumption in other cities.

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Soda tax debates: A case study of Berkeley vs. Big Soda's social media campaign

Advocates can use this case study, produced in collaboration with our partners at John Snow, Inc., to strategize about using social media in their campaigns to pass sugary drink taxes, fight chronic diseases and protect public health.

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Infographic: Nine recommendations for sugary drink tax advocates

In 2014, the residents of Berkeley, California, launched an effort to institute the nation's first tax on sugary drinks. Along with our partners at JSI, we examined the social media activism surrounding the successful "Berkeley vs. Big Soda" campaign on Twitter and Facebook. Based on our findings, we offer nine recommendations for advocates looking to promote similar policy changes. 

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Video: How news media shapes our understanding of youth violence and sexual assault

As part of an Institute of Medicine workshop on the social and cultural norms that underlie the acceptance of violence, BMSG's Lori Dorfman discusses the role of the news media, how connections among violence, youth and race get distorted in news reports on crime, and the prevalence of language in the news that minimizes the act of sexual violence. She also addresses the need to reframe news coverage in ways that highlight the social context for violence and potential solutions.

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Corporate portrayals and perceptions in public health debates

BMSG's Lori Dorfman was among several public health panelists at the October 2015 European Public Health Conference in Milan, Italy. Drawing on recent BMSG research, Dorfman discussed U.S. news coverage of corporate actors in food and beverage policy debates.

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Talking about trauma: Findings and opportunities from an analysis of news coverage

Children who experience trauma are at an increased risk of developing mental and physical health issues later in life, with profound implications for every sector of society. Because the media play an important role in shaping policy, we examined the news to see how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are portrayed, and we identified opportunities for advocates to improve the volume and quality of coverage.

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Worksheet: Developing strategic messages [pdf]

To advance public health policy goals, advocates must know how to communicate strategically about the issue they want to address, why it matters, and what should be done about it. Use this worksheet to practice developing messages for your target audience.

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Worksheet: Answering hard questions [pdf]

Being strategic means anticipating your opposition's arguments and preparing for hard questions, whether they're from a news reporter, your target decision-maker(s), or even a community member who could one day become an ally. Use this worksheet with colleagues or others to brainstorm hard questions and practice your responses.

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Activity: Delivering effective messages [pdf]

It's one thing to develop a strategic message. It's an entirely different skill to deliver your message in a strategic way. Use this mock interview activity to help you stay on message and further your policy goals. 

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Worksheet: Crafting your media advocacy plan [pdf]

Creating a media advocacy calendar can help you identify key moments in the political process or opportunities — such as holidays, anniversaries or other key dates — that you can leverage to garner media attention. Use this worksheet to help you identify news hooks and prepare for newsworthy events in advance.

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Worksheet: Elements of newsworthiness [pdf]

Media coverage can provide a powerful way for advocates to shape public conversations and public policy. But gaining coverage requires understanding what makes an issue newsworthy. Use this worksheet to brainstorm ways to make your issue relevant to the media.

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'We're part of the solution': Evolution of the food and beverage industry's framing of obesity concerns between 2000 and 2012

How are food and beverage companies shaping public conversation on obesity and other nutrition-related diseases? How can advocates help denormalize industry tactics? In this paper for the American Journal of Public Health, we, along with our colleagues from the Public Health Advocacy Institute, analyzed news statements to learn what messages the food and beverage industry is using in response to obesity concerns, how messaging tactics have shifted over time, and implications for public health.

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Issue 22: What's missing from the news on sexual violence? An analysis of coverage, 2011-2013

Understanding how sexual violence appears in the media is important for advocates working to prevent it because news coverage offers insights into how the public and policymakers view the issue and what to do about it. In this Issue, BMSG explores how journalists characterize sexual violence, whether prevention is discussed, and what steps advocates and reporters can take to improve coverage. Read more >

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Case study of Shasta County Public Health: Health equity award winner for a small county practice [pdf]

This case study, part of a series developed by the Berkeley Media Studies Group and supported by The California Endowment (TCE), highlights the innovative work Shasta County Public Health is doing to advance health equity. Shasta was one of four health departments in California honored by TCE for its equity-oriented efforts in December 2014. To learn more, view the case study, full report, or companion videos.

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Case study of Sonoma County Department of Health Services: Health equity award winner for a medium county practice [pdf]

This case study, part of a series developed by the Berkeley Media Studies Group and supported by The California Endowment (TCE), highlights the innovative work that the Sonoma County Department of Health Services is doing to advance health equity. Sonoma was one of four health departments in California honored by TCE for its equity-oriented efforts in December 2014. To learn more, view the case study, full report, or companion videos.

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Case study of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health: Health equity award winner for a large county practice [pdf]

This case study, part of a series developed by the Berkeley Media Studies Group and supported by The California Endowment (TCE), highlights the innovative work happening in Los Angeles County to advance health equity. The L.A. County Department of Public Health was one of four health departments in California honored by TCE for its equity-oriented efforts in December 2014. To learn more, view the case study, full report, or companion videos.

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Case study of Alameda County Public Health Department: Grand prize winner for outstanding health equity practice [pdf]

This case study, part of a series developed by the Berkeley Media Studies Group and supported by The California Endowment (TCE), highlights the innovative work that the Alameda County Public Health Department is doing to advance health equity. Alameda was one of four health departments in California honored by TCE for its equity-oriented efforts in December 2014. To learn more, view the case study, full report, or companion videos.

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Advancing health equity: Case studies of health equity practice in four award-winning California health departments

In spite of funding challenges, local health departments across the state and nation are increasingly focused on understanding health inequities and how to prevent them. We developed these case studies to explore the innovate efforts, challenges and successes of four California-based health departments working to ensure a healthy future for all.

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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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