Giving Compass’ Take:
• Nat Kendall-Taylor and Nicky Hawkins share strategies for building public support for prevention-based policies.
• How can funders best use these strategies? Which prevention policies could you advance using this guidance?
Societies around the world struggle to pass preventative social and environmental policies that keep people safer and healthier, both in the moment and into the future. More times than not, prevention takes a back seat to dealing with problems that have already taken shape.
Take the opioid epidemic. In the United States, more than 130 people die each day from opioid overdoses. We can trace many of these deaths back to unsafe practices around prescribing opioids to deal with chronic pain. When someone is suffering from an overdose, the drug naloxone can keep them alive. The public seems to be behind naloxone and supportive of making it more widely available. But many seem much less supportive, even actively opposed to, calls to change the medical system and pharmaceutical industry to prevent addiction, including through limiting the course of opioid prescriptions, requiring more-robust physician training, changing the way companies market opioids, or using non-opioid alternatives to pain management. If more people supported these changes, it would help stop addiction before it starts.
The problem isn’t that people think taking actions like improving physician training aren’t worthwhile; rather, such actions don’t always seem relevant or necessary to addressing the issue at hand. This is because of the predictable and automatic cognitive responses that shape our thinking and, without us knowing it, make it hard for us to think longer term about preventive solutions. The present—what is right in front of us and what we can change right now—is potent and tangible; it demands our attention. By contrast, the future is nebulous, difficult to get a handle on, and easy to put out of mind.
The good news is that the science of cognition can help us understand why it is hard to win public support for preventative approaches to solving social problems. And it can inform advocacy strategies to get people to see the power of dealing with problems before they arise.
- Connect Action Now With Outcomes Later
- Prime Legacy Thinking
- Put More Focus on Solutions
- Don’t Rely on Probabilities
- Show Context
- Move Beyond Consumerism
Read the full article about building up support for prevention-based policy by Nat Kendall-Taylor and Nicky Hawkins at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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