Renewed health advocacy strategies used by Medical students

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Social determinants of health including socioeconomic, cultural and environmental conditions are the main causes of poor health and associated inequities between and among various racial, ethnic, or other demographic groups and countries.2

In response to global political and economic forces, some countries integrate health and human rights into medical education.2 Changing and modifying of social determinants are essential to improve health via transformation of policies, rules, regulations and legislations among various sectors related to public health, business, industry and medicine. However, it is not the sole responsibility of policy makers and institutions to modify these social determinants.2 Subsequent individual advocacy efforts, a change in people’s cultures and beliefs and how they think about the issues can support and modify social determinants of health.2

Health advocacy is “the processes by which the actions of individuals or groups attempt to bring about social and organisational change on behalf of a particular health goal, program, interest or population”.2

“Advocacy has the potential to shape or change policy in a way that impact the health of thousands, if not millions, of people”.2

Communication is the most basic level of health advocacy. Messages are sent to persuade and influence others. Advocacy efforts are more effective and attractive when various tools aid with the communication process such as technological advances including software and associated devices.2

Young adults aged 18 to 29 are disengaged in civil activities. Most young adults lack knowledge of political topics and processes, registering to vote and participation in actions beyond voting.2 They are not involved in political affairs because “they are alienated from the institutions and processes of civil life and lack the motivation, opportunity, and ability to overcome this alienation”.2

Adolescents aged 12 to 17 are a largely untapped resource within communities and can be civically active. They can be involved in community organising and advocacy projects, being provided with opportunities to successfully participate in social change and civic affairs and develop skills into adulthood.2

There are various communication devices which use wireless technology to send information and communicate with other devices across distances.2 Mobile phones are the most common tool of communication devices as they can transmit voice data and send text and multimedia messages. Internet access is available through web-enabled mobile phones. Internet allows access to social networking sites such as Facebook, blogs and twitters which strengthen existing social networks, find new friends and expand networks.2 These technologies allow sharing of information at a faster pace, recruiting more people and using a variety tools to implement the necessary action for social change. Youth advocates can use mobile phones and social networking sites to recruit people to join the cause, organise collective action, raising awareness and shaping attitudes, raising funds to support the cause and communicating with decision makers.2

Social justice curriculum can be integrated as part of medical education.1 There should be a focus on methods which promote critical thinking and self-reflection to guide curriculum development.1 There are several opportunities which can model and teach principles of social justice within a medical school such as site visits during community projects, role playing, reading groups, reflective journaling, small group discussions and use of social media such as mobile phones and social networking sites.1 According to JABSCOM social justice curriculum, education of social justice can be brought about through lectures, group discussions and posting on blogs.1 Following that, implementation involves professional skills development, community services and experimental learning in medical school through public speaking, public policy advocacy, community-based action projects and literature-based research presentation.1 Evaluation includes social awareness and life-long personal growth through self-reflective essays, continuation in learning and actions and pre-/post-program evaluations.1

References

  1. Hixon, AL, Yamada S, Farmer, PE & Maskarinec GG. Social justice: The heart of medical education. Social Medicine [Internet]; 2013 [cited 2014 Apr 9];7(3):161-168. Available from: http://www.socialmedicine.info/index.php/socialmedicine/article/…/671/1380‎
  1. Thackeray R & Hunter M. Empoweeing Youth: Use of Technology Advocacy to Affect Social Change. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication [Internet]; 2010 [cited 2014 Apr 9];15(4):575-591. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2009.01503.x/pdf
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