SPECIAL FEATURE - July 2002
Advocacy for financial sustainability
Heidi Larson, Senior Communications Adviser at UNICEF and Chair of the GAVI Advocacy Task Force, sets out some key principles
Advocacy is winning the support of key constituencies in order to influence policies and spending, and bring about social change. Successful advocates usually start by identifying the people they need to influence and planning the best ways to communicate with them. They do their homework on an issue and build a persuasive case. They organize networks and coalitions to create a groundswell of support that can influence decision makers (1)
While accurate financial sustainability plans with a clear understanding of financial gaps are crucial to mobilizing adequate and sustainable resources for immunization, they are not enough. Decision makers who determine budgets for vaccines and immunization services need to be aware of the importance and value of vaccines as a crucial, cost-effective investment so that they commit needed budgets, with adequate long-term planning to ensure uninterrupted supplies of vaccines. They also need to know the public health risks of a vaccine programme running out of resources.
In order to advocate and plan for financial sustainability, clear and concise information is needed on why a country should invest in immunization. Information on how that investment can help to strengthen an overall health system is valuable fuel for advocacy, as is evidence on the impact of immunization in reducing disease burden.
Good advocates also need to know who they have to influence, and understand the environment and language to build an argument that will appeal to that particular person or constituency. While there will be some key messages that will be relevant to everyone, the way in which messages are delivered will likely need to vary depending on the audience in order to be effective. What matters to a minister of finance will be different from what matters to a minister of health. Decision makers need to be persuaded that immunization, in the context of other competing demands, is critical and supportive of other health and development concerns.
In order to ensure that financial commitments will prove sustainable, the plans need to be widely owned. Broad participation in the planning process is essential to ownership of the plans and provides a wider base of support to ensure that the plans are realized. Remember that advocacy for financial sustainability is an ongoing process which will need continual effort. The more people who own and believe in the need for adequate resources for immunization, the more likely the needs will be met.
1. TB Advocacy: a practical guide. WHO Global TB Programme. Geneva 1999
Immunization Focus July 2002 - Contents