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Example #1: Reframing the substance use debate

Adolescent substance use is a nationwide problem. In particular, many national campaigns have sought to reduce the use of alcohol by minors. Framing and reframing the issue proved to be a significant key to gaining community support for an adolescent substance use coalition.

The coalition was experiencing difficulty in gaining support from many community members. The reason? The coalition operates in a college town, where adolescent alcohol consumption is thought of more as a rite of passage than a problem. That put the coalition in a vulnerable situation: Without support for their cause, how could they survive as an organization? Or, more importantly, how could they have an impact on substance use?

The coalition began brainstorming. Several new ideas began to emerge. Adolescent substance use is not just alcohol consumption, but also involves other substances that were public health concerns: marijuana, cocaine, tobacco, etc. The coalition began examining the risk and protective factors associated with substance use.  They soon realized that most (if not all) of the risk and protective factors for alcohol use were relevant to addressing all of the various substances.

With this in mind, they reframed the issue to gain maximum support from the community. They chose to emphasize tobacco use, which most agree is a public health problem affecting youth today. Although the coalition's mission has not changed, the framing has been transformed to fit the purpose of a wider audience. As a result, the coalition received greater support from the community.



This brief summary highlights the FrameWorks Institute’s research on public perceptions of food and fitness. It summarizes three cultural models associated with food and fitness and community health that dominate public thinking, and provides guidance for reframing the issues to elevate community support.


Example #3: Framing Community Safety: Guidance for Effective Communication

Cover image of the guide.

The FrameWorks Institute offers Framing Community Safety: Guidance for Effective Communication (pdf), which is a guide for nonprofits, community-based organizations, public agencies, and others who want to communicate more effectively with the public about community-led efforts to prevent violence and promote safety and healing. Read more.

Example #4: From Victims to Survivors: Language Matters

Kansas City, Missouri Health Department has new director

Marvia Jones, MPH, PhD, Director of the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department, spoke at a panel titled Community-Engaged Research: Perspectives from researchers and community partners, at the Life Span Institute Collaboratory in Lawrence, Kansas. Dr. Jones shared the following about the importance of the use of language in community-based efforts:

“There was a study the Health Department was a part of, funded by the Department of Justice, titled, ‘Addressing Trauma in Youth Victims of Violence.’ One of the elements of our intervention was a survey. We would go out and ask, 'How many times have you been a victim of violence? What kinds of violence have you been a victim of?’ We used the word 'victim' in different ways. The people administering the surveys were saying 'These people spent the rest of the interview talking about how they’re not a victim.' They were talking about the term ‘victim’, about calling them a victim, calling them a victim in a circumstance, asking if they’ve been victimized, when have they been traumatized, anything that sounded like that. Those being interviewed didn’t see their everyday life as traumatic or their experiences as victimization. They just said it was a part of their experience; part of their life. We kept interviewing people to get to the crux of it, and someone said, 'It’s dangerous for me to ever consider myself to be a victim. That makes me weak, and makes me vulnerable.' So, we changed our approach. We changed the way we ask that question, and we also changed the way that we refer to people in the community who had experienced violence. We call them 'survivors,’ or 'people who have experienced violence,' or 'people who have been impacted by violence.' The federal funding is made by Congress, so we couldn’t change the study’s title, but we changed the way that we addressed the community about that issue.”