Recommendations to Build Understanding of Public Health

Framing research details the way in which people interpret messages and develop opinions, attitudes, and understanding about public health. These recommendations, derived from comprehensive framing research, aim to help public health professionals communicate effectively about their work.

What is Framing?

Frames are sets of choices we make when we present information: what to emphasize, how to explain ourselves, and what to leave unsaid. Framing is an approach to communications that pays attention to people’s deeply held worldviews, assumptions, and cultural models.

Quick Start Guide

There are many different framing strategies that can be used to effectively communicate about the value of public health and cross-sector collaboration. Use this guide to get a quick overview of the PHRASES research and tools.

10 Framing Recommendations

Demonstrate your familiarity with the sectors you wish to engage

Public health professionals are often seen as “book smart” and out of touch with other sectors’ work. This recommendation helps to build credibility, earn trust, and convince other sectors of the benefits of collaboration through a compelling, and targeted appeal.

Explain the social determinants of health using the Foundation of Community Health metaphor

Other sectors often don’t recognize or understand the phrase social determinants of health. This metaphor can be used to better communicate this concept.

Illustrate how the field of public health is transforming to meet 21st century needs

It is important to show other sectors the forward-thinking and adaptive nature of public health. Their usually limited view of traditional public health makes it hard for them to understand why public health is involved in broad social issues.

Leverage allies and public health professionals working in or with other sectors as messengers

To earn credibility with other sectors, engage professionals with cross-sector experience to be messengers. Feature firsthand accounts of practitioners whose understanding spans another sector.

Frame collaboration as empowerment

Other sectors, understandably, are wary of being told what to do. Showing how public health can support their mission frames collaboration as an asset rather than a liability. 

Appeal to the Value of Investment to orient thinking toward tangible long-term gains

Immediate and sector-specific financial pressures are often top of mind for leaders in other sectors. This guidance helps frame opportunities to align short-term objectives with long-term investment in healthy communities.

Share vivid success stories that link cross-sector collaborations to the concrete benefits they deliver

While other sectors may see potential benefits in collaborating with public health, we need to show that collaboration is possible, practical, and has been demonstrated to work. Success stories help make this connection.

Foreground public health’s data expertise

All sectors value and rely on data, but usually do not have a robust understanding of how public health can help meet their data needs. This guidance shows how to highlight public health’s data expertise and skills.

Use the GPS Navigation metaphor to explain how public health’s data expertise can help other sectors move toward innovative solutions

Other sectors often have a narrow perception of data expertise. This metaphor can help explain how public health’s data expertise works, and how it can function as a flexible and adaptable tool like a GPS for other sectors.

Keep it positive

Adopting an alarmist tone and emphasizing the urgency of the matter may actually turn potential collaborators away. Projecting a positive outlook can advance a mobilizing vision of safer, healthier, and more prosperous communities.


Overview of PHRASES

This training provides an introduction to how productive framing and messaging can improve partnerships and overall health outcomes, and an overview of the tools and strategies PHRASES provides to improve communication to other sectors.

Using the PHRASES Framing Tools

This course focuses on the 10 PHRASES framing recommendations and four framing tools. It provides a deep dive into the tools and finishes with an interactive piece to show learners how to use the framing tools to build and sustain cross-sector partnerships.

Related Resources

Strategic Framing Brief

Framing strategies that are proven to shift thinking and attitudes about public health in productive ways. These recommendations can be used to build support for meaningful partnerships with other sectors.

When You Say...They Think

This tool shows commonly used phrases from public health, explains what the other sector might be thinking in reaction, and provides framing tips and guidance for reframing our communications.

Strategic Messaging

Toolkits for public health professionals to motivate the public and other sectors to support public health. These messaging tools includes samples messages, "winning words", practical tools, and other strategies.