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Original Scholarship Health Equity
Neil A. Lewis Jr.
Erika Franklin Fowler
Sarah E. Gollust
Nov 27, 2023
Oct 10, 2023
Sep 18, 2023
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Context: Long-standing racial inequities in health and well-being are shaped by racialized public policies that perpetuate disadvantage among Black, Brown, Indigenous, and people of color. Strategic messaging can accelerate public and policymaker support for public policies that advance population health. We lack a comprehensive understanding of lessons learned from work on policy messaging to advance racial equity and the gaps in knowledge it reveals.
Methods: A scoping review of peer-reviewed studies from communication, psychology, political science, sociology, public health, and health policy that have tested how various message strategies influence support and mobilization for racial equity policy domains across a wide variety of social systems. We used keyword database searches, author bibliographic searches, and reviews of reference lists from relevant sources to compile 55 peer-reviewed papers with 80 studies that used experiments to test the effects of one or more message strategies in shaping support for racial equity–related policies, as well as the cognitive/emotional factors that predict their support.
Findings: Most studies report on the short-term effects of very short message manipulations. Although many of these studies find evidence that reference to race or use of racial cues tend to undermine support for racial equity–related policies, the accumulated body of evidence has generally not explored the effects of richer, more nuanced stories of lived experience and/or detailed historical and contemporary accounts of the ways racism is embedded in public policy design and implementation. A few well-designed studies offer evidence that longer-form messages framed to emphasize social and structural causes of racial inequity can enhance support for policies to advance racial equity, though many questions require further research.
Conclusions: We conclude by laying out a research agenda to fill numerous wide gaps in the evidentiary base related to building support for racial equity policy across sectors.
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