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August 13, 2015

Anti-tobacco advocates in the Philippines learn latest in communications strategies

Our guest blogger Patty Miranda, from Health Justice Philippines, recently joined a three-day strategic communication workshop in Manila. Participants attended from the Department of Health (Philippines), tobacco control NGOs in the Philippines, and other partners.

One of the most valuable takeaways from the Strategic Health Communication Workshop is that harnessing the power of media is not just about getting it done – but getting it right. Implementing dynamic communication programs needs a lot of thoughtful planning, keen attention to detail, and the capacity to envision how to best achieve positive change. The three jam-packed days were eye-opening in this regard. No matter the number of years of active involvement in tobacco control advocacy in the Philippines, there was always something new to learn from every session.

Participants from the Department of Health and New Vois Association of the Philippines discuss their strategic tobacco control communication plan at the training workshop in Manila.

Even the most seasoned advocate will agree that media training and regular refresher courses are crucial to implementing memorable communication programs. Effective messaging and communication strategies are the lifeblood of any advocacy. These strategies involve simplifying highly technical, and sometimes abstract, public health concepts to ensure that the public is not only aware of the issues, but are also encouraged to get involved. This process is not as easy as it sounds.

The highly interactive approach of the workshop made learning fun and dynamic. We were asked to share our personal experiences on how our organizations creatively tackled country-specific issues related to tobacco control. The workshop included a separate session where participants witnessed the launch of Philippines’ first national TV media campaign in more than 20 years. It was a great way to see how the different ideas during the lectures came to life in an actual press conference.

Press conference launch of the “Cigarettes Are Eating You Alive” TV campaign

The workshop included public health advocates from government agencies and non-governmental organizations working together to address the tobacco epidemic in the Philippines. It was an explosive meeting of minds, with representatives from Department of Health, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Iloilo City Anti-Smoking Task Force, Civil Service Commission, Action for Economic Reforms, HealthJustice, and Framework Convention Alliance on Tobacco Control-Philippines.

Communication plans were made concerning tobacco tax increases, advertising bans, graphic health warnings, and smoke-free public places. One session included a mock press conference where participants were assigned to act as either government officials answering questions, or as journalists asking them. Whether it was brainstorming media activities for key policies outlined in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control or passing around festive gift-wrapped candy during icebreaker games, the workshop highlighted the value of teamwork and fostered deeper relationships among the participants.

Strategic Health Communications workshop participants in Manila

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