239726 Collaboration across sectors: A Canadian example of advocacy towards policy change

Monday, October 31, 2011

Samantha Cukier, MBA, MA , Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Background: A grassroots group, including school administrators, teachers, community health boards, health professionals and a cross section of government departments, were concerned about an alcohol “harm reduction” program in Nova Scotia elementary and junior high schools run by the provincial alcohol monopoly. The “Colourful Messages” program asked that children in grades 4-8 draw “responsible use” pictures and messages on paper bags to be distributed at alcohol retail outlets. This technique of alcohol normalization is one commonly used by the alcohol industry. Methods: Research was undertaken to look at the best practices in prevention, health promotion and harm reduction related to alcohol use for school-aged children. Information was disseminated among health professionals, school administrators, concerned community members and other stakeholders. Results: Even though this program contained none of the benchmark factors for success, it continued in the school system because it was initiated by and had strong support from the alcohol industry, offered incentives, and was never really questioned - until two years ago. At that time, it was determined that the program was in fact increasing the harms associated with alcohol use as opposed to reducing them. Through effective network building, collaboration and information dissemination, the grassroots group was successful in ending this program that had been in place for ten years. Conclusions: Coordination and collaboration at the individual, organizational and system levels were integral to the success of this policy change. It is crucial for public health professionals to work with non-traditional partners to ensure evidence-based practice.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. List the top 3 best practice programs for school-based alcohol prevention and harm reduction. 2. Identify 5 non-traditional members to be included in an effective advocacy network. 3. Formulate a process by which an advocacy network can be activated when a pressing public health issue arises.

Keywords: Alcohol, Advocacy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I led Nova Scotia's alcohol strategy's policy committee and oversaw the alcohol policy work for provincial health district's Addiction Services, specifically working on removing the non evidence-based "colourful messages" program referred to in this abstract.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.