Preparation

Design your intervention activities

  • Create community awareness

One way to gain community support for your policy or environmental change is to raise the awareness of community members regarding the strengths and challenges of preventing injuries from falls within your community. One way to do this is to ask members of your community to document community characteristics in need of change by keeping a journal, taking photographs, videotaping, or audio taping comments. This has been referred to by other groups as an audit of the environment. The documented evidence from these assessments can be used to identify and prioritize problems as well as to advocate for change (e.g., show pictures or videotapes to community members and policymakers).

When promoting a policy change, it is important to gather sound scientific evidence from a wide variety of disciplines to document the benefits of preventing injuries from falls. Previous efforts have included an assessment of the extent of injuries from falls; documentation of what has already been done to address the issue; the specific historical, cultural, and political context; and the economic impact of changes in the environment (e.g., fixing broken or uneven sidewalks, adding signs and handrails to stairs). All of these may use quantitative (e.g., survey) or qualitative (e.g., interviews) data collection.

Once this information has been gathered, it is important to present the information back to the community and important stakeholders in a way that shows why the issue should be a concern and specify why a policy would help create a desired change.

These presentations can help to identify and prioritize problems as well as to advocate for change in a way that shows why policy and environmental changes are important for preventing injuries from falls.

It is also important to consider the kinds of information, as well as the methods of sharing information, that will be most useful in getting key stakeholders involved.

Example strategies for information sharing:

  • Newsletters
  • community forums
  • websites
  • local meetings of civic and volunteer associations
  • meetings with city council members or legislators

Remember that information or evidence alone may not convince key decision-makers – they may also need to see constituent support for these policy or environmental changes. Constituent support may be demonstrated by having a group of people who would be affected by the policy or environmental changes speak to what they see as the benefits of enacting such a change (e.g., increased access to resources or opportunities to make healthy choices).

Economic feasibility is important to policy implementation, political and community support, and long-term success. Policymakers may want to know about the economic costs and benefits of the policy or environmental change, so be prepared to answer questions about the costs and benefits of various options.

In addition, while you have the attention of critical decision-makers, it is helpful to ask for advice on how to move forward a legislative or environmental and organizational strategy to address the issue. This will help to ensure time for your interactions to match the policy process and that goals of all partners are met.

  • Promoting community supports

Think about what your community members and decision-makers want as well as what is feasible based on political and/or community support and available funding. Likewise, consider how long it may take to create these changes and whether the support from community members and decision-makers will continue as long as you will need it to. Most importantly, work with your partners to figure out what changes are reasonable and practical in the community. For example, it may not be appropriate to promote a school policy requiring students to increase physical activity if the school is not equipped with proper and safe playground equipment or a gym to facilitate this policy. These interventions will be more effective when characteristics of your population are taken into consideration (see Assessment and Prioritization).

Social action is an approach that can be taken to increase support for environments and policy interventions. This approach can help to spotlight how the environment can affect people’s health.Social action may include the use of confrontation or conflict.

Example use of a social action: A group of community members might join together to light a candle for each person who has died from injuries from falls. These approaches can sometimes get people’s attention when other approaches have failed. Though this strategy can help to define and bring attention to a problem, it is also necessary to strive towards effective solutions.  Working with your partners through social planning can assist you in moving from awareness of the concerns to acting to create changes in environments and policies related to injuries from falls.

When you feel you have adequate support, you can focus on environment and policy changes (e.g., information, availability, and access or incentives to support injuries from falls prevention). Make sure that your partnership is prepared to create environment- or policy-level changes. Environmental changes require support from the site of interest as well as those using the site (e.g., schools- superintendent, parent teacher associations, teachers, students, cafeteria staff). A policy is a plan or course of action intended to influence and determine decisions, actions, and rules or regulations that govern our collective daily life. Policies can be created and enforced by organizations, schools, and workplaces or by the government at local, state, or federal levels.

Advocating for environment or policy changes is another approach communities can use to create changes in injuries from falls in their communities. Advocacy is the act of arguing in favor of or against an issue or policy. A well-structured organization can act as a public advocate to define a problem that affects many individuals or communities and can work to unite their voices and actions to create change. Larger advocacy organizations often develop regional or national strategies to address issues and then work with local organizations to obtain support to implement these strategies.

While some advocacy groups may work directly on changing access to resources, others may work on changing patterns of behavior.  By working with both types of groups, you may have linkages to larger organizations that can help define concerns and develop potential solutions.

NOTE:
If your partnership is considering public advocacy strategies, be aware that most organizations that receive public funds cannot participate in lobbying activities. Lobbying activities include letter or phone campaigns and petition drives.

Previous injuries from falls environments and policies have been successful in creating changes in the physical environment as well as increasing knowledge of the causes of injuries from falls. For more information, go to Tools and Resources for Injuries From Falls.

  • Create a timeline and assign roles and responsibilities

Work with your partners to decide on the timeline for the intervention as well as who will be responsible for carrying out the intervention activities. Be very specific about roles, tasks and timelines to ensure that the intervention is implemented successfully. Include information about when your message will be distributed and by what communication channels.

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