Creating progressive social change requires us to have both the data and the narrative.

One clear example of an issue where data will never be enough is health inequalities. At FrameWorks, we have a programme of work with partners like the Health Foundation and Impact on Urban Health concerned with how we frame health inequalities in public discourse in order to drive policy change.

In particular, we’ve been working with Impact on Urban Health on how to talk about childhood obesity: first by uncovering deeply held beliefs on the issue and exploring which beliefs were helping or hindering change; and then through undertaking qualitative and quantitative research to identify narratives that could shift thinking and bring more helpful mindsets to the foreground. Do take a look at this communications toolkit to learn more.

Our research has shown that when you ask people what causes obesity, the first things that come to mind are poor individual choices and a lack of willpower. And when you ask about possible solutions, many feel the only way to create change is through improved education on food and nutrition.

However, many people can also see that inequality matters. They see that if you’re on a low income, it can be harder to buy and cook enough nutritious food for the whole family or that if you’re a shift worker, the food that’s within reach at unsociable hours may not be the healthiest. But this deeper understanding isn’t at the front of most people’s minds, and in the main, people default to thinking that ultimately anyone can be healthy if they want to be.

A new narrative which stresses that your surroundings help to shape you has the power to pull the recessive, more productive set of beliefs to the fore and create support for policy change. One of the most important aspects of this new story is to lead with health. When we lead our communications by talking about what this issue is fundamentally about—in this case, boosting health—people are more willing to listen to what we have to say.

Read the full article about social change by Kate Stanley at NPC.