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Media Advocacy

Description of Strategy

Media advocacy is defined as the strategic use of mass media and community advocacy to advance environmental change or public policy initiatives (CDC, 2003). This strategy is typically employed to promote an issue in order to influence policymakers and encourage social change (American Public Health Association, 2000). Unlike specifically designed public information campaigns, media advocacy works directly with local news outlets (radio, television, newspapers and magazines) to increase local attention to a specific public health problem and related solutions (Niederdeppe, Farrelly, & Wenter, 2007). The concept has many applications and has been used broadly on tobacco control and other issues. One key application is as a response to issues involving well-financed opponents who use money to shape the political and social environment. Compared with public relations, media advocacy is more focused on a particular policy goal, resulting in social change. It’s also more decentralized, community based, and community owned (CDC, 2003).

Also known as...

Promotion media advocacy

Discussion of Effectiveness


Media advocacy efforts focused on alcohol have been found to be effective as part of a multi-component prevention program to reduce alcohol-related fatal crashes and drunk driving among adolescent and college populations (Hingson et al., 1996; Clapp et al., 2005).


Evidence of effectiveness supports media advocacy as a tool to increase tobacco-related policies at the county level and to reduce the odds of adult smoking (Niederdeppe, Farrelly, & Winter, 2007; Smith et al., 2008; Wakefield, Flay, Nichter, & Giovino, 2003).

Prescription & Other Drugs

No studies were located on drug related outcomes.


Strategy Description

American Public Health Association. (n.d.). Media Advocacy Manual.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2003). Designing and implementing an effective tobacco counter marketing campaign. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.

Niederdeppe, J., Farrelly, M.C., & Wenter, D. (2007). Media advocacy, tobacco control policy change and teen smoking in Florida. Tobacco Control, 16, 47-52.

Evidence Base

Clapp, J. D., Johnson, M., Voas, R. B., Lange, J. E., Shillington, A., & Russell, C. (2005). Reducing DUI among US college students: Results of an environmental prevention trial. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 100(3), 327–334. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2004.00917.x

Hingson, R., McGovern, T., Howland, J., Heeren, T., Winter, M., & Zakocs, R. (1996). Reducing alcohol-impaired driving in Massachusetts: The saving lives program. American Journal of Public Health, 86, 791-797.

Niederdeppe, J., Farrelly, M.C., & Wenter, D. (2007). Media advocacy, tobacco control policy change and teen smoking in Florida. Tobacco Control, 16, 47-52.

Smith, K.C., Wakefield, M.A., Terry-McElrath, Y.T., Chaloupka, F.J., Flay, B., Johnston, L., Saba, A., & Siebel, C. (2008). Relation between newspapers coverage of tobacco issues and smoking attitudes and behaviour among American teens. Tobacco Control, 17, 17-24.

Wakefield, M., Flay, B., Nichter, M., & Giovino, G. (2003). Role of the media in influencing trajectories of youth smoking. Addiction, 98(Suppl. 1), 79-103.

Futher Reading

American Public Health Association. (n.d.). Media Advocacy Manual. Available at:

Holder, H. D., & Treno, A. J. (1997). Media advocacy in community prevention: News as a means to advance policy change. Addiction, 92, S189–S199. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.1997.tb02991.x