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How to talk about the building blocks of health

This toolkit, developed by Frameworks UK and The Health Foundation, aims to enhance public health communications and secure support for addressing the wider determinants of health. The authors of the toolkit seek to increase public health capacity to tell compelling, solutions-focused stories about what drives health. 

Toolkit informed by four years of research on message-framing  

The Health Foundation has been working with Frameworks UK for the past four years to understand both how people think about health, and how to build social and political support for addressing the wider determinants of health. The research that informed the toolkit is listed below:

Five recommendations for improved public health communication

How to talk about the building blocks of life recommends five strategies for public health to tell more effective stories about health equity issues.

  1. “Show why it matters: lives are being cut short” (p. 5-6) - Emphasize the value of human life and adapt your level of emotional intensity to the situation.
  2. “Harness the power of explanation” (p. 7-11) - Use a memorable metaphor for what determines health (e.g. “the building blocks of life”) or tell a more detailed story about the influence of a single factor that determines health.
  3. “Show change is possible” (p. 12) - Within the story being told, share policy solutions.
  4. “Use certain arguments with caution” (p. 13-18) - Avoid economic arguments for addressing the determinants of health, avoid focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic, or on protecting publicly funded universal healthcare.
  5. “Use data to strengthen your story, not to tell it” (p. 19) - Make numbers easy to understand and use numbers to build context.

A September 2022 webinar recording about this resource is available here.


Use this resource to:

  • Reflect and strategize with your team about effective communication strategies
  • Improve your efforts to secure social and political support for health equity action 
  • Access a helpful table of what works and what doesn’t (p.22) and a checklist for crafting your communication (p. 23) 


Alignment with NCCDH Work:

Understanding how best to shift social and political support for health equity action aligns strongly with other NCCDH work.

In 2014, the NCCDH applied messaging guidelines developed by the Canadian Council on the Social Determinants of Health to the topic of income inequality and health.

The 2016 Common Agenda for Health Equity framework discusses this in relation to building a foundation for health equity action.

The 2018 environmental scan, Building a culture of equity in public health, named building communication skills as a key area for action.

In 2021, Learning Together: Communicating to propel organizational capacity for action on health equity outlined key approaches to communicating about health equity to compel and sustain action within health organizations. 


Glossary of Essential Health Equity Terms

See other resources on public health communication strategies.


The Health Foundation. (2022). How to talk about the building blocks of health. Retrieved from: 

Tags: Communication Strategies, Tool