Just like you take an evidence-based approach to treating sick kids, you can draw
on communications research as you advocate for child health issues like immigration.
Moira O’Neil will explain how to use “framing strategies” during a presentation titled
“Changing the Rhetoric Around Immigrant Children: Communication Strategies for Effective
Advocacy (F1110)” from 4-4:45 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3 in room W304CD of the convention
O’Neil is director of the research interpretation and application unit at the FrameWorks
Institute, which uses communication research to help nonprofit organizations change
public discourse on social issues and drive social change.
“In this talk, I’m going to share some of the findings that we have come up with to
help pediatricians talk about the impact of current immigration policies on children’s
development,” O’Neil said.
Those findings come from research on early childhood adversity as well as the best
ways of communicating about immigration and immigration reform.
As pediatricians know, toxic stress early in life can cause a host of physical and
mental health problems throughout life. The public, however, has been bombarded with
messages like “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Therefore, when pediatricians advocate for more humane immigration policies, they
need to do more than share a first-hand story about immigrant children in crisis,
O’Neil said. They also must explain how this stress may impact these children years
down the road — and they must propose some solutions.
“People can’t be left with a sense that this is awful, my heart is broken, but I’m
dealing with 5 million things that are stressful in my own life and I’m paralyzed
by this crisis,” she said. “It’s really finding that magic spot between description
of problems and solutions.”
The goal of framing an issue is not to change people’s minds with a single communication,
“If you think about it less as changing minds and (more about) helping people practice
other ways to think about things, then I think you take a little bit of the pressure
off of yourself to ‘win an argument.’”
Pediatricians also need to realize they are trusted messengers on the issue of immigration,
“You are in the right position to be giving people this information,” she said. “You
have incredible power and voice. Even though there are so many demands on you and
you may feel overwhelmed, you really make an impact in ways that other groups might
not be able to.”