Voluntary Health Organizations and Nonprofit Advocacy Organizations Play Critical Roles in Making Community Norms More Supportive of Healthier Eating and Increased Physical Activity

  • William J. McCarthy
  • Harold Goldstein
  • Matthew Sharp
  • Eric Batch


Recent food choice and physical activity-related policies adopted in California illustrate the important roles that voluntary health organizations and nonprofit advocacy organizations have been playing in efforts to influence policies, community attitudes, and practice norms with respect to healthy food choices and increased daily physical activity. Using the history of tobacco control as validation, we outline the major steps that voluntary health organizations and nonprofit advocacy organizations typically take to get nutrition and physical activity-related policies adopted. These steps include: making the problem meaningful, mobilizing local stakeholders, addressing opposition concerns, accumulating and publicizing evidence for community concern, negotiating a sustainable solution, and nurturing implementation of enacted policies. Broadcast and print media play critically important roles in creating pressure on elected officials, as well as potentially galvanizing community support at significant moments in the policy-adoption process, but it is ultimately an organic convergence of hard-working policymakers and committed grassroots activists visiting legislative offices, hosting strategy sessions, and engaging public media of all kinds who persuade legislative bodies to adopt health-promotion policies. It is also vigilant stakeholders who ensure appropriate enforcement or strengthening of the policies long term. Mobilizing a critical mass of local advocacy efforts in disparate towns and cities is labor intensive but may be more effective in changing community norms statewide or nationwide than relying exclusively on broadcasting health-promotion media messages to effect sustainable community norm change. A detailed example of a vulnerable community combating the effects of junk food marketing with community mobilization and legal advocacy is well described in Kramer et al. ( Chap. 18).


American Heart Association Tobacco Control School Meal Policy Adoption School Food 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • William J. McCarthy
    • 1
  • Harold Goldstein
    • 2
  • Matthew Sharp
    • 3
  • Eric Batch
    • 4
  1. 1.UCLA Division of Cancer Prevention and Control ResearchLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA)DavisUSA
  3. 3.California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA)Los AngelesUSA
  4. 4.American Heart Association (AHA)Los AngelesUSA

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