Individual and Systemic Advocacy

What is advocacy?

  • Advocacy is a powerful tool for gender-transformative health promotion. Advocacy has been defined by the World Health Organization as “a combination of individual and social actions designed to gain political commitment, policy support, social acceptance and systems support for a particular health goal or program.” (24)
  • Advocacy influences outcomes and achieves change (25), and can be used to redefine the structures, norms, attitudes and behaviours that support inequity.
  • Advocacy spans the breadth of health promotion activity defined by the action areas above – from working downstream with individuals and communities, often referred to as ‘individual advocacy,’ to work at an upstream level often referred to as ‘systemic’ or ‘structural advocacy,’ that targets public policy and societal structures (26).

What is individual advocacy?

Individual advocacy can be a good place to start – much of what health promotion practitioners do is essentially advocating for individuals, and empowering them to improve their health. This can be achieved through health promotion activities such as behaviour change programs, interventions to build community capacity, or running community groups.

What is systemic advocacy?

Systemic advocacy can be more efficient, effective and long-lasting, and “acknowledges that barriers to health can lie beyond the control of individuals and that structural factors need to be addressed if gender roles are to be transformed and health inequalities are to be reduced” (26). By influencing public policy and resource allocation within political, economic and social systems and institutions (25), health promotion has the potential to be gender-transformative.

Organizing for Effective Advocacy
The Community Tool Box is a free, online resource for those working to build healthier communities and bring about social change. It includes information on advocacy principles, advocacy research, providing education, direct action campaigns, media advocacy, and responding to opposition.

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