How can a public health journal article drive a public conversation?

Microphone facing camera.



Too often when public health academics publish their research in a journal, they are ‘preaching to the converted’.

Yet if promoted appropriately, public health journal articles can drive conversations, put issues on the public agenda, educate the public, influence public opinion, and ultimately influence public policy and Government decision making. They also provide the evidence to debunk commercial arguments that seek to undermine good public health policy.

That’s why the Public Health Association of Australia’s communications team have recently been putting a more concentrated effort and resource into strategic communications to promote the research published in our official peer reviewed scientific journal, the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

With journal topics ranging from Japanese Encephalitis (JE) in immunologically naive populations to the corporal punishment of children, since late March we’ve collaborated with journal authors and their media teams to translate some of the latest research from the journal to the news pages.

We kickstarted this work alongside lead journal article author Prof Simone Pettigrew and her media team at the George Institute for Global Health promoting an ANZJPH article on e-cigarette attitudes and use amongst 15 – 30 year olds. Our joint media efforts generated coverage in outlets such as The Guardian, ABC News 24 and ABC Radio Sydney. Importantly, this activity reinforced the public health community’s calls for tightening of vaping regulations and the research was referenced again by media outlets such as ABC Online and The Sydney Morning Herald when the Health Minister Mark Butler recently announced new vaping measures.

Prior to the Easter holidays, PHAA partnered with researchers and the media team at the Victorian Department of Health to highlight their new ANZJPH article on the risk of JE in immunologically naive populations and educate the public about the risk to travellers visiting infected regions. Quotes from Adjunct Prof Terry Slevin also highlighted the link with climate change, and the need for a Centre for Disease Control to address emerging disease threats. The research was covered by 16 media outlets including The Herald Sun, ABC News Breakfast, Ten News Live (Midday News), 9 News Online, ABC Radio Melbourne, 5AA (Adelaide), and ABC Online.

Also in May, we partnered with Dr Nic Taylor and the team at the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University to promote their evidence-based research on the impact of minimum alcohol pricing on moderate drinkers – driving media coverage through outlets like 6PR Perth, ABC News Radio, and the Northern Territory News to help rebut the industry argument that the measure penalises all drinkers. This was supported by an opinion piece from Dr Nic Taylor in the Sunday Territorian.

Most recently we revisited tobacco and e-cigarettes again in late May, working with Prof Jonine Jancey at Curtin University and her media team to secure an exclusive with The Guardian on her article on conflict of interest declarations within academic tobacco and e-cigarette publications.

However, our most successful article this year for media-uptake was fronted by Prof Sophie Havighurst from Melbourne University and Prof Daryl Higgins from Australian Catholic University, and focused on their article on the case to make corporal punishment of children illegal. A concerted media outreach effort led by University of Melbourne and ACU and supported by PHAA generated well over 100 media mentions. Highlights included a page three exclusive in The Australian, and follow-up coverage in the Adelaide Advertiser, The Guardian, and Daily Mail. Broadcast media interest included TV programs Today Show and Today Extra, several TV news bulletins, ABC 744 Melbourne, as well as outlets like Kids Spot and Channel 9 parenting.

Linking ANZJPH research with media outreach is not only helping us raise awareness of some key public health issues and drive public conversations, but we hope will also translate into more research citations for our authors.

Essential to the success of these stories has been ready and willing credible journal authors who can act as spokespeople and their amazing media teams who have been happy to collaborate with us. Additionally important is our ability to work with journal publishers to select the publication time and date of articles to ensure their release is timely, policy relevant, and appropriate for journalists.

We also support journal research across our social media channels and welcome InTouch pieces about the latest ANZJPH research.

Three months on from commencing this activity, it’s clear that journalists are interested in new research on public health and this has previously been an untapped opportunity for raising awareness of public health issues in Australia.

PHAA members who’ve not done media interviews before can receive free media training from the PHAA communications team. A face-to-face workshop on media skills is also being run at this year’s Australian Public Health Conference. And all PHAA members receive a substantial discount when publishing articles in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

All authors are encouraged to let us know if they have an accepted ANZJPH article that they think is “newsworthy”.

We are very proud of the ANZJPH.  An open access journal, it attracts more than one million downloads a year and currently has an impact factor of 3.755. So we want to tell the world about its important work.

For the latest ANZJPH news, follow our official Twitter account.



Image: Kane Reinholdtsen/Unsplash

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