From STRIPED Director Bryn Austin
There’s an unspoken assumption among most scientists: If we work really hard and accrue enough evidence about a public health problem or a health inequity, that will lead to policy change, and in turn communities will be healthier because of our efforts. The assumption seems to be that our evidence is linked to policy change through some direct and unmediated pathway. But what is this mysterious pathway? Osmosis? Magic? Sheer brilliance? It’s tempting to say it’s the latter, but alas, reality is more complicated.
I’m going to let you in on a secret, though. The pathway isn’t really that mysterious if you think of it as an arc, an evidence-to-policy translation arc that we can learn to navigate along its three essential steps:
- accrue compelling evidence
- generate viable policy options
- energize political will to galvanize lawmakers and communities around one or more of those options
While this unspoken assumption about how policy change happens may be the norm among scientists generally, there are some notable exceptions. Tobacco control is a shining example. As a field, it has done exceptionally well in the realm of policy translation, laser-focused on all steps on the arc to catalyze meaningful policy changes. Think of indoor smoking bans, age restrictions, and sales taxes, all of which have become the law of the land and are saving countless lives.
Those of us who work in eating disorders prevention have been working hard for a few decades now. Many successes have been logged, yet scaling up prevention for the benefit of whole communities and society most often requires changing policies. Our field is a relative newcomer to strategies for connecting evidence to policy. Recognizing this as an aspect of the field in need of growth, STRIPED and our team of collaborators and trainees have dedicated our work year in and year out to charting a new path along the policy translation arc. Our goal: to accrue compelling evidence, craft viable policy options, and energize political will around the issues that we care about most and that are well-documented to contribute to a crisis of body image among young people.
We started with over-the-counter diet pills and weight-loss supplements, predatory products that are hardly regulated, often dangerous, yet are sold to children across the country every day. Then we expanded our portfolio to include initiatives to ban weight discrimination, incentivize businesses to use realistic advertising images of people of all sizes, shapes, and skin shades, and more. We are joining forces with like-minded people across disciplines, such as law and economics, and across sectors, including community advocates, lawmakers, and businesses.
We have learned a lot over the years about bringing together science, policy, and community to forge powerful collaborative campaigns for policy change and health equity. We are committed to sharing all that we’ve learned with you—fellow public health professionals, community advocates, and policymakers alike—and are thrilled at the release of our STRIPED Advocacy Playbook. Culling the best ideas and experience from over the years, our Playbook offers a step-by-step guide to connecting evidence to policy change. We are proud that our Playbook showcases the trailblazing work of our talented colleagues:
- My Power People, led by Lori Fresina, creator of the Power Prism®
- Center Road Solutions, led by Katrina Velasquez, crafter of our slate of model legislation
- 1235 Strategies, led by Leslie Kerns, and the team at GQR, orchestrators of our message testing for the model legislation
With their contributions and those of many others on our team and our generous supporters, we are pleased to make the STRIPED Advocacy Playbook freely available through our website. If you have a passion for health equity and a vision of a world where young people of all genders can grow up at home in their own bodies, then roll up your sleeves, and let’s get started.