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Let’s Talk: Advocacy and health equity

The sixth release in our “Let’s Talk” series highlights the importance of advocacy as a strategy and practice within public health, and describes the different ways advocacy can contribute to addressing the social determinants of health and improving health equity.  It acknowledges the challenge of engaging in advocacy within the Canadian public health context and provides a framework for situating a variety of approaches and resources that could be of help to public health practitioners in their particular context.

Four roles for public health are described, including:

  • Framing the issue
  • Gathering and disseminating data
  • Working in collaboration and developing alliances
  • Using the legal and regulatory system

The case is made for shifting the advocacy focus in public health from individuals and groups to upstream policy and structural changes.
The resource includes discussion questions to help public health staff examine their work and consider whether they have the skills to participate in advocacy, how they can create safe spaces to engage in advocacy, and how to address policy and social change at the structural level.

We’ve selected a number of tools and resources that public health practitioners can use in fulfilling their advocacy roles.  These can be found in the resource library document “Key public health resources for advocacy and health equity: A curated list”

Use this resource to:

  • explore how the type of advocacy action selected is related to the focus and goal
  • reflect on how the concepts of “market justice” and “social justice” provide a tension in public health advocacy
  • learn about the elements related to the four public health roles within an advocacy strategy
  • support a conversation in your organization about how to create a safe space for moving your advocacy actions further upstream toward structural change


National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health. (2015). Let’s talk…Advocacy for health equity. Antigonish, NS: National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, St. Francis Xavier University.
Other documents in this series:

Let’s Talk: Health equity 
Let’s Talk: Public health roles for improving health equity
Let’s Talk: Universal and targeted approaches to health equity 
Let's Talk: Populations and the power of language 
Let’s Talk: Moving upstream



Tags: Community engagement, Healthy public policy, Intersectoral action, Key concepts, Knowledge translation , Leadership & capacity building, Partnership , Policy analysis, National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, Report / Document

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