Dialogue is the cornerstone to achieving public policies that have a positive impact on people’s health and quality of life. So, how can we ensure effective dialogue, i.e. communication that focuses on the right audiences, with the right messages and at the right time?
When we talk about public health policies, we refer to all those efforts undertaken by a government to consolidate its vision regarding the mental and physical health of its citizens through laws, plans, projects and programs. This is the future that each and every country aspires to. Public health policies are decisions taken by governments with regard to their targets in this area, and they are the most efficient means of ensuring more universal, more sustainable and more expedited access to healthcare.
However, this vision is based on the participation of many parties, including medical and nutrition organizations, patient groups, activists, academia and industry personnel, among others. Health policies are complex, and the stakeholders involved are numerous. There are normally a number of sectors involved, helping governments achieve their health policy goals and improve the health of the general population.
Our contribution, as communication consultants and as part of the multi-disciplinary team that an organization requires in order to be able to participate in this dialogue, can be seen in a number of different areas. One of these is through the meticulous monitoring of published opinion, the standpoints that are analyzed and the voices of mass media outlets, in addition to conversations on social networks. This allows us to consolidate or adapt the messages as necessary. Correctly analyzing all of this feedback is of fundamental importance in achieving the goals that have been set.
Furthermore, having a spokesperson who can publically communicate the benefit of this new policy means that our role in this conversation is assured. Identifying, training and keeping this spokesperson active is a fundamental role carried out by the communications team. We should also not forget the role the spokesperson and other stakeholders play in developing a communication strategy that transmits the message for the proposed public policy to be better received.
In order to achieve this, everyone representing the organization in this challenge must agree on and define the key messages that the institution needs to communicate, in accordance with each of their areas of responsibility. From the planning stage, it should be made clear that the members of the institution represent just one voice, a voice that overrides any individual preferences.
A major aspect that should be taken into consideration when proposing public health policies is the need for collaboration between healthcare professionals and communication experts. Doctors and specialists, whether from private clinics, public healthcare institutions or research facilities, are capable of providing the rationale behind the implementation of a certain health policy. However, when integrating these arguments into the communication strategy, it is of vital importance that both parties reach an agreement regarding the health information that the medical experts want to communicate and the ideas that the communication professionals will convey in order to reach the target audiences.
The fundamental role that communication plays in public health policies can be used to ensure that said policies are not just the consequence of public demands and pressure, nor the result of a cold, rational process of analysis, but rather policies that truly work and help promote a healthier society.