Communicating Clearly About Community Health

May 1, 2024 - (3 min read)

Communicating about community health can be tricky because people from different walks of life and different professions can have very different understandings or knowledge of the concept. As a result, they may not see how community health goals intersect with their own. This can make cross-sector collaboration difficult.

However, building an understanding of how improved community health can be a shared goal across various entities is essential to building partnerships and momentum.

For example, before making progress in advancing health equity, city leaders from Missoula, Mont., recognized that they themselves first needed to reach a shared understanding.

“What I really appreciated about the Cities of Opportunity experience is that the team was able to coalesce around a common language, mission, and vision.”

– Donna Gaukler, Missoula Parks and Recreation Director, and member of the participant city team in NLC’s 2021 Cities of Opportunity Cohort

With that understanding in place, the team was then able to extend the alignment to their broader community.

Here are three tips for communicating about community health:

1. Keep it positive. Aspiration and inspiration are far better motivators than urgency and fear. Instead of saying, “If we don’t do X, we will have Y negative consequences,” say, “If we work together, we can achieve X, Y, and Z.

2. Avoid jargon. Instead, use words and phrases people have heard before and that paint a picture:

  • “public health report card” vs. “public health indicators.”
  • “make sure the air we breathe is clean, fresh and healthy” vs. “reduce exposure to air pollutants.”

3. Frame collaboration as empowerment. For example:

  • You (business leaders, for example) are key influencers of community life, and we want to dial up your efforts to ensure we all thrive. Through collaborative projects like X, together, we can Y.

These tips are drawn from our new Plain Talk series of communication tools for city leaders, which we’ll be debuting at this year’s Cities of Opportunity Solutions Forum, the annual gathering of city leaders and their partners who’ve taken part in the Cities of Opportunity initiative.

Get More Plain Talk Tips at the Solutions Forum

Are you ready to be a leader for healthy equity in your community? Register today for the Cities of Opportunity Solutions Forum on Wednesday, May 8. This half-day virtual event brings together city leaders, philanthropists, and health experts to discuss what’s happening on the front lines of the fight for better health equity across America.

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