Extending our Reach to Non-Academic Audiences: Lessons from the Military and Veterans Health Special Interest Group
In his persuasive presidential address, Jim Sallis encouraged SBM members to better communicate to the public, clinicians, organizations, and decision-makers, aligned with current SBM President Gary Bennett’s mission to “extend our reach”. To help the Military and Veterans Health Special Interest Group (MVH SIG) and SBM members put their calls into action, our incoming MVH SIG VA Co-Chair Katherine Hoerster shares strategies for activating the public on behavioral medicine issues, drawing on her recent publication of an op-ed, and past legislative advocacy.
Writing an Op-Ed
- Include a personal perspective along with scientific and professional claims.
- Invite people with various (including dissenting) perspectives to read and edit your piece.
- Work with your institution’s media liaisons to craft your message, identify target outlets, and obtain approval.
- Have a draft ready so breaking news can be incorporated and the piece submitted quickly.
- Have a plan for how you’ll disseminate the op-ed so that you can quickly get the word out once it is published. Share it broadly on social media platforms, and directly with professional, academic, advocacy, and healthcare organizations. Also share the op-ed with relevant blogs and media outlets that disseminate published pieces. Be sure to share the piece with those holding opposing views.
- Keep your advocacy momentum going after the op-ed is published. Invite potential partners to discuss next steps.
- See additional helpful tips from Duke University and the op-ed project.
General Tips for Communicating to Non-Academic Audiences
- Work with your institution to help craft press releases and prepare for media interaction in advance of publishing peer-reviewed publications.
- Identify and frame research findings to have broad audience relevance.
- Communicate with leadership and other stakeholders who have the ability to translate findings into action.
- Be mindful of laws prohibiting direct lobbying with federal dollars/time.
You can have a big impact on public health by using these non-traditional mechanisms. Be sure to anticipate, and ameliorate, potential unintended consequences of large-scale changes you seek. Get creative and have fun!
Additional MVH SIG Activities to Extend Reach
In partnership with several SIGs and SBM committees/councils, we held a preconference course at SBM 2017: “Research Translation for Military and Veteran Health: Research, Practice, Policy.” The course identified critical steps for translating research to advance military and Veteran health while facilitating collaborations among over 80 researchers, clinicians, and leadership from VA, DoD, their academic affiliates, and beyond. We are preparing a product focused on key lessons learned to assist others doing translational, collaborative work with military and Veteran populations. We are also working with MVH SIG members to identify policy-change priorities to include in a policy brief. We are strengthening ties to the community-based organization Team Red, White, and Blue, which promotes physical activity and social engagement among Veterans. We hope to highlight their work, and other partnerships with Veteran-serving organizations, at the 2018 Annual Meeting.
We’d love to connect with you about increasing the reach of behavioral medicine interventions and improving Veteran and Servicemember health. Lastly, we congratulate Cara Blevins and Erin Goodell who received the 2017 MVH SIG Dr. Patricia R. Rosenberger awards.
We look forward to continuing to work with you in the coming year!
Your MVH SIG Executive Team: