Case Story – Engaging Non-Traditional Allies: Nurses PDF
Case Story – States as Laboratories for Federal Policies: The SAFER Campaign PDF
Lessons and Tips – Engaging New Advocacy Partners PDF
"Reaching out to nontraditional allies takes time, and it has had fits and starts. We had to learn how to talk to different groups, to translate our issues so they would resonate with them. And sometimes we had to stray from our core programs to be there for their issues, to show solidarity, in order to build those relationships."
- Beldon Grantee
Health and health care are a core concern of the American public – and a higher priority than environmental issues. Despite the growing indication that toxic chemicals in consumer products pose a danger to human health, there was little awareness of this problem among the public and even less pressure on policy makers to address it.
Framing toxic chemicals as a health – rather than strictly environmental – concern was the first step to convince more people of the urgent need for reform. The second step was to engage respected voices – especially nurses – from outside the traditional environmental community. Finally, Beldon recognized the need for reliable scientific data to make an effective case for greater regulation of toxic chemicals.
What We Did
Invest in key organizations that represent health professionals. Prior to Beldon’s funding, most nursing organizations were not engaged in environmental health issues, particularly the dangers posed by toxic chemicals in the environment. By making grants to nursing organizations directly rather than supporting environmental grantees to reach out to this constituency, Beldon could engage nurses as full partners. Direct funding also allowed nurses to define environmental health issues through their own lens, which led to a deeper commitment and greater sense of ownership among nursing organizations.
The goal was to first educate – and then activate – this constituency. Through support to the University of Maryland School of Nursing and Health Care Without Harm, Beldon was able to reach nurses in educational and workplace settings. Funding to the American Nurses Foundation bolstered an advocacy infrastructure that could mobilize nurses at the state and national levels.
Engage Health-Affected Groups well-positioned to advance an environmental health agenda. Beldon invested in several organizations representing health-affected groups. It found a particularly effective advocate in the Breast Cancer Fund (BCF), which incorporated an environmental health agenda into its mission of identifying and eliminating preventable causes of breast cancer. Beldon support allowed the BCF to pursue environmental health advocacy on several fronts - educating policy makers and the public about the link between environmental contaminants and breast cancer, and leading the national Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. This work has brought policy victories in California that now serve as a model for other states.
Harness the power of scientific data to make an effective case for reform. Beldon supported two projects that provide access to scientific findings on the links between contaminants in the environment and health problems. Environmental Health Sciences, begun in 2003 with support from Beldon and two other foundations, and Science Communications Network, launched in 2002 with Beldon support, raise public and media awareness of research findings and help advocates make effective use of scientific data.
New Advocates Take Action. Despite some challenges, new advocates have contributed to scores of state policy victories on toxic chemicals, which built momentum for the 2008 passage of a federal law to ban lead and phthalates in toys and other children’s products. These successes have paved the way for comprehensive reform of national policies regulating the use of toxic chemicals. Today, nurses are far more engaged in environmental health issues, and they continue to expand their advocacy. The Breast Cancer Fund has become an authoritative voice on the health dangers posed by toxic chemicals and a leading advocate of policy reform.
Increased Awareness of Scientific Data Linking Toxic Chemicals to Health Concerns. Beldon grantees have helped translate and disseminate the growing body of scientific research that is demonstrating the health dangers posed by toxic chemicals, particularly in children’s products. Having hard data made it possible to engage new allies in pushing for stricter regulation, and helped advocates get the attention of media and policy makers. Advocates also found a powerful model for policy reform in the European Union’s REACH regulations that set higher safety and accountability standards regarding the use of chemicals in products.
Grantees Shaping the Debate. Environmental Health Science’s “Above the Fold” digest of scientific findings now has more than two million subscribers, including journalists, policy makers, and environmental health advocates. The Science Communications Network has helped numerous scientists and health professionals communicate more effectively, and it is now a “go to” source for reporters seeking referrals to environmental health experts. Both groups have helped increase the quantity and quality of media coverage of new scientific findings, fostering a greater public awareness and dialogue about the risks of toxic chemicals.