Advocacy actions

World Hepatitis Day (WHD) is the perfect day to remind decision makers, policymakers and those in power about the need for action on viral hepatitis. Before you start approaching people you need to set out what you are trying to change. Advocacy messages can be about increased access to vaccines and treatment, increased political prioritization, more funding for viral hepatitis or to highlight injustices to the hepatitis response.  

Once you have defined what you are trying to change you will need to identify who you are going to target. This may be government ministers, global funders, local leaders or institutions.

Once you know what you want to achieve, it is necessary to understand the people and institutions you need to influence to make it happen. After people living with viral hepatitis, decision-makers are most likely to be your most important advocacy stakeholder. These are the people with the power to bring about change and usually work in places of influence such as governments, the media or corporations.

You shouldn’t just focus on key stakeholders you want to influence for change. Think more broadly about other stakeholders who can support your activities. The participation of a wide range of stakeholders can generate broader support for specific issues and increase the legitimacy and effectiveness of advocacy campaigns. Choosing the right partner can increase access to decision-makers, provide technical expertise, support evidence gathering and mitigate risks.

World Hepatitis Day 2023 POSTER 4

How to engage with your policymakers

Lobbying
Lobbying is defined as an attempt to try to influence the thinking of decision-makers for or against a specific issue or cause you care about. It includes meetings, writing letters, making phone calls, and other tactics. Lobbying isn’t just for professionals, it’s a way for us all to take a stand for what we believe in.

Lobbying is most effective when you have a set of objectives, you know your audience, understand the legislative calendar and know the influencers. Hopefully by now, you will have all this information to hand.

Writing a letter
Letters may seem basic, but they are powerful tools to get your messages across. Writing letters to your policymaker is most impactful when you can get other organisations involved. For example, the more signatures or the number of letters sent, the more the issue becomes a priority.

Setting up a meeting
It may seem rudimental, but one of the key points of lobbying is understanding how to set up a meeting. In the UK for example, MPs have regular surgeries to meet constituents, often on a Friday. It’s important to have a clear sense of when and what you want to speak about. This will increase your chances of securing that meeting

Preparing a briefing paper
An important note to remember is that policymakers aren’t always experts. They rely on advocates like us to provide them with the information. Therefore, it’s important to be accurate, clear and concise with your aims. A briefing paper is always a good resource to bring to the meeting. It should outline your cause and be tailored to that decision-maker’s remit of influence. Don’t forget to bring a couple of copies as they are useful to leave behind.

How to use the stories of the affected community

Don’t underestimate the power of the human story. It can be a big step for someone living with hepatitis to discuss their story in public. The stories of those living with or impacted by viral hepatitis can help educate and raise awareness, provide support and inspiration, tackle stigma and discrimination, and highlight the true impact of this global disease.

Letter template

Dear Minister,

My name is [insert name] and I am writing on behalf of [insert civil society organisation], with the support of the World Hepatitis Alliance.

It’s World Hepatitis Day’s on 28 July and I am writing to urge you to support the fight against this accelerating epidemic. Hepatitis is now the world’s second deadliest virus, after COVID-19. Every year, 1.3 million people lose their lives to hepatitis – and the new World Health Organization Global Hepatitis Report says the number of deaths is rising.

More than [insert figures] people in [insert country] are living with viral hepatitis. The majority are unaware of their status, and since testing and treatment remain beyond reach for most, they will not know until it is too late. More than a third will have their lives cut short by liver cancer or other forms of liver disease.

There is a cure for hepatitis C and a vaccine and effective treatment for hepatitis B, but health programmes are not sufficiently funded; stigma and discrimination prevent many from accessing services; and millions of our most vulnerable citizens are being left behind. There is a short window of action available between 2024 and 2026 to regain the trajectory needed to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

We call on [insert country or state] to prioritise viral hepatitis elimination in the following ways: 

  • Promote greater public and political awareness of the importance of viral hepatitis B and C prevention, testing and treatment 
  • Substantially increase access to testing in community and health facility-based services 
  • Provide high-quality, evidence-based and affordable, people-centred hepatitis care services and prevention programmes
  • Address stigma and discrimination faced by populations most affected by hepatitis in healthcare setting and in society as a whole
  • Strengthen community and civil society involvement in hepatitis programmes and create innovative partnership to drive change.

We look forward to your support this World Hepatitis Day and in the future. It’s time for action.

Yours sincerely,

[insert name]

Download the letter here