Public Health Communications Toolkit
Fact Sheets/Public Health Messages
The following three fact sheets illustrate different approaches to describing the roles of a local health department. A description of each fact sheet and how it was developed is included.
The fact sheets are designed to help you communicate about the role of local public health with your peers, your community, the media and policymakers. They are written to communicate across diverse audiences. We suggest that LHDs choose among these fact sheets—or mix and match language from the different fact sheets—to communicate with different audiences as appropriate.
FACT SHEETS INCLUDE
This fact sheet provides a general overview of the functions of an LHD and references both directly and indirectly most of the Ten Essential Services from the Operational Definition. It was tested with focus groups representing the "general public" and is intended to convey a sense of the vitality and versatility of LHDs and how powerfully LHDs relate to people's lives.
Additionally, we have provided a copy of this fact sheet with local examples included from Marquette County, Michigan illustrating how the health department serves that particular community. We suggest that you create your own examples to insert into the fact sheet. In developing examples remember that a good example will resonate with the specific, intended audience by showing "what's in it for me;" will reflect events that have been in the news; and is likely to produce impressive outcomes. The example should be worded in a way that paints a picture, is brief and easy to understand, avoids jargon, and transfers well to situations where it is read at a public meeting or on a newscast. Download »
This fact sheet is the most technical and specific of the three fact sheets when defining the role of local public health and is most closely aligned with the Ten Essential Public Health Services from the Operational Definition. It was survey-tested with a group of individuals representing various facets of governmental public health, such as LHDs, state health agencies, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is intended illustrate a fairly comprehensive picture of the diverse and numerous public health functions LHDs perform. Download »
This fact sheet uses short phrases and specific examples to provide an overview of local public health focused mostly on results and outcomes. Every example in this fact sheet might not be applicable to your particular agency's activities. We encourage you to delete or substitute examples that are not relevant to your LHD and instead use examples appropriate to your community. The fact sheet was survey-tested among a group of policymakers. The intent of the fact sheet is to emphasize that LHDs are a terrific investment and that policymakers can rely confidently on their information, expertise and advice. Download »
How to Use the Fact Sheets in Communicating
When talking to the media, the community or policymakers about local public health, there are a few key things to remember:
Speak in plain English and avoid “public health speak”
Imagine that you are at a social event with people that do not work in public health. How would you describe what you do and the services an LHD provides? You would probably use less technical terms and you would provide examples people can easily relate to. Across all your communications efforts, you should use understandable and jargon-free language and vivid, descriptive examples whenever possible.
Focus on outcomes, not process
The Operational Definition does an effective job at describing all the processes that public health agencies engage in to achieve results. However, in communicating with your audiences about public health, you should try to focus on outcomes as much as possible. Although significant work is accomplished during workshops, meetings, partnerships and planning sessions, let your audiences know what was achieved and how safety or quality of life was improved in their community.
Use stories and examples to illustrate your point
In addition to focusing on outcomes, make sure to provide specific and colorful stories and examples. Fact Sheet 1 describes how you can incorporate specific examples from your own community into the fact sheets.
In other toolkit sections, we provide more detail on how you might work with the media and policymakers to educate them about the role of local public health.
Below is a brief list of ideas, many of which were drawn from successful experiences of LHDs, on how you might use the fact sheets in your community and when working with colleagues.