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alPHa Winter Symposium, February 20-21, 2014
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Thursday, February 20

Welcome by Mary Johnson, alPHa President

alPHa President Mary Johnson welcomed delegates to alPHa’s 2014 Winter Symposium – Public Health Challenges and the Science of Persuasion, the aim of which was to develop a deeper understanding of how to be persuasive when communicating about public health issues.

In public health we know the importance of influencing the beliefs and behaviours of individuals, community leaders, and government policy-makers. This has had mixed results in recent years, with notable difficulties in persuading communities about the health benefits of community water fluoridation or wind turbines. Each would be used as a starting point for learning new communications tactics and strategies, with more information about the types of audiences that need to be persuaded.

She then welcomed facilitator Scott Campbell, who is the founder and CEO of Personalities At Work, a Toronto-based leadership development firm. His client list includes such notable organizations as Nike, GE, IBM, Pepsi, Proctor & Gamble, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, Sun Life Financial, and Sanofi Pasteur. In addition to his corporate clients, Scott has extensive experience in consulting with both US and Canadian governmental agencies and NGOs.

In addition to more than 25 years of management and leadership experience in both the corporate and non-profit sectors, Scott possesses a Master’s degree in organizational leadership, as well as a certificate in Strategic Decision Making and Risk Management from Stanford University. 


Creating Clear and Persuasive Messages That Reach All Types

Learning Session 1

During this interactive keynote session, guest speaker and facilitator Scott Campbell gave an overview of the core elements of persuasive messaging, which are based on well-researched principles and practices that account for the myriad factors in decision dynamics. Ultimately, persuasion is the art and science of using the proper tools to influence those dynamics, and recognizing that they may be different depending on the characteristics of the audience and the content message.

He asked delegates to think about an instance when we changed our minds about something, and then to think about what it was that was persuaded us to do so. This would be a starting point for thinking about how we in turn effectively persuade different types of individuals on different subjects. He then emphasized that while data and logic are important, many personal and societal factors also need to be addressed. 

He continued by pointing out two major mistakes that people often make when crafting a message: Workbook

1) We use arguments that WE find persuasive

2) We overestimate the power of logic and rationality.

He used several examples to illustrate the critical role of emotions and external environmental factors (such as music, time of day, frame of mind, others in the surroundings) in decision-making processes. This is further complicated by two types of mental processes that we use of depending on the situation.

System 1 processes are  unconscious, automatic, quick, intuitive, emotional

System 2 processes are conscious, laborious, slow, rational, and they require a degree of suppression of System 1 processes.

It is tough to determine which of these is going to be in play at any given time, so attention needs to be paid to both, especially the pitfalls of System 1 if one ignores the emotional dimensions of the decision-making process. This is what makes stories, imagery and attention to language so powerful.  He told of how his own beliefs around capital punishment changed after seeing a film, and then pointed to the imagery in his slide deck as an example of how it enhances what he is saying rather than summarizes it in point form.  He then made the distinction between visual and mental images as he pointed out the importance of ensuring that messages resonate with the audience rather than the presenter.

Exercise: Members were instructed to open the envelopes on their tables and read the card within. The cards presented an outbreak situation and two options for addressing it. He asked those who had chosen Option A to stand followed by those who had chosen Option B. Curiously, the room was visibly divided, with the east side overwhelmingly choosing A and the west overwhelmingly choosing B, even though the options had essentially the same outcomes. The difference was in the wording - you can read what was on the cards here.

He then introduced and outlined the Six Principles of Persuasive Messaging:

1.      - Speak From Their World to Their World (know your audience)

2.       -Speak to both the Heart and the Head (be aware of System 1 and 2 processes and the emotional tone of words)

3.      - Frame Outcome as Losses, Not Gains (losses are seen as threats. As such, they have more power and influence over decisions)

4.      - Preserve Your Audience’s Freedoms and Autonomy (threats to these invariably cause psychological reactance, which is difficult to overcome)

5.      - Use Social Proof (related to the first principle – be aware of the tendency to determine beliefs based on what others in a similar cohort believe)

6.       -Use consistency (behaviours are likely to flow from active, public and voluntary statements of belief or intent).

Prior to the break, Scott responded to a question about the intransigence of those who are firmly convinced. His advice was to concentrate persuasion efforts on those who are on the fence, but noted that the power of testimony from peer groups (e.g. someone who was previously firmly convinced but has since changed his or her mind) is also significant.

 THE VIDEO OF THIS LEARNING SESSION IS AVAILABLE FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE IN ITS ENTIRETY. Due to file size restrictions, it has been compressed to the lowest possible resolution and divided into 10 parts. Please be patient, as the files are still quite large.

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3  /Part 4  /Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7 / Part 8 / Part 9  /Part 10


Practice Session 1

Each table group was given the opportunity to apply the principles of persuasion to the two issues mentioned in the introductory session: community water fluoridation and industrial wind turbines.

1.  Water Fluoridation – Persuading Municipal Council to keep or add Fluoride to the drinking water supply.

The groups were instructed to use the Six Principles to craft a persuasive message (which could be delivered in less than two minutes) for a designated target audience (in this case Municipal Council), and record the elements on flipcharts. Once this was completed, the groups rotated around the room to examine each others’ results and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each. Finally, they were asked to return to their tables and make changes to their own messages based on additional insights gained from this process.  

During the ensuing discussion, it was observed that almost all of the presentations had some kind of imagery involving happy/sad faces with nice teeth / bad teeth. Scott pointed out that this can be a very effective strategy, but must be approached with caution, as it is difficult to predict the nature of the emotional impact. Some may not be effective because they have become cliché, while others may stray too far into the manipulation side of persuasion.

It was also noted that it can be difficult to step outside of our own language and often obvious to an audience when we do. Scott agreed, advising that any messaging strategy should include an audience analysis, including using focus groups to test out language to see what resonates. This is the best way to avoid the trap of making assumptions about what will and won’t work. As an aside, he raised the notion of authority and how hierarchical relationships can impact the emotional dimensions of decision making.

Responding to a question about the use of analogies (e.g. drawing parallels between public transit and water fluoridation, which are both public goods with reasonable (if more expensive) options), Scott cautioned that one must be very sure that the audience is in fact solidly supportive of the analogue, otherwise the analogy itself may backfire.

   2.  Industrial Wind Turbines

In this practice round, participants were asked to work individually on messages designed to persuade parents who are concerned about the potential health impacts of wind turbines (presumably on their children). These parents have no vested interest outside of growing concern. How do we persuade them that the advent of wind turbines is in fact a benefit? Delegates were given 7 minutes to tailor their own messages, following which they were asked to discuss them in groups of three. Following this discussion, each participant was asked to tweak their message based on the feedback they received.

To close the morning session, Scott provided recommendations for further reading for those who wished to look in more detail at some of the ideas covered above.

Robert Cialdini – Influence: Science and Practice
Daniel Kahneman – Thinking Fast and Slow (regarding the two mental process systems)
Scott Campbell – Mind Games


Learning Session 2

After lunch, Scott turned the focus from understanding persuasion from the perspective of the message and how it is delivered to one of understanding how the characteristics of the four broad types of audiences affect how a message is received. 

To start, he asked delegates to jot down their own top-of-mind characteristics under four headings - Joys & Values, Strengths & Talents, Frustrations & Stressors, and Ideal Work Environment. These would be recalled following information that he would subsequently present about core temperaments and how they fit under one of four "personality types”.

His main thesis here is that temperament is an important foundation for motivational orientation, which is what affects an individual’s ability and willingness to process messages that are or are not aligned with their own beliefs. Knowing how to identify four basic temperaments and their characteristics can be an important factor in deciding how to communicate.  

The Workbook outlines these four temperaments in a fair amount of detail starting on Page 17.


Practice Session 2

Delegates were asked to customize persuasive messages to the four types of audiences, paying attention to the core values and key words that will vary among them, while still drawing upon the general persuasion principles discussed in the morning. Working in the same small groups as they did for the practices session about water fluoridation, they were asked to rework their water fluoridation message for each of the four temperaments.

To close the afternoon, Scott invited members to subscribe to his Strategic Decision Making Monthly blog at 


Friday, February 21


alPHa Updates

 alPHa President Mary Johnson welcomed members to Day 2 of the symposium, and provided updates on the June 2014 alPHa-AOHC Joint Conference and the alPHa Strategic Plan. She also indicated that we are interested in holding the 2015 alPHa Annual Conference outside of Toronto, and invited members to consider their public health units as potential hosts.  

alPHa will be hosting its 2014 AGM as part of a joint event  - Prevent More to Treat Less - being planned with the Association of Ontario Health Centres. She gave an overview of what the program will entail, focusing on the relationship between public health and primary care. This meeting will run June 3 – 5, with the first day set aside for the alPHa’s Section meetings.

She then turned to the alPHa Strategic Plan, which is a two-year plan aimed at increasing alPHa’s focus on its members through support, promotion, representation, connections and development of leadership, management and governance skills. alPHa’s focus on public health issues will prioritize systemic ones, most notably those related to provincial policy and those that have broad impact on its members from a structural, financial or operational point of view.  The intent is to ensure that alPHa’s resources are devoted to maximizing service and value to its members.

Health Promotion Division Updates

 Healthy Kids Community Challenge

 Kate Manson-Smith joined that meeting to give further details on the Healthy Kids Community Challenge, which is based on the EPODE model (as recommended in the Healthy Kids Strategy report), and they are in fact working on the methodology with the existing EPODE network. This is the first foothold in North America for that program, and the approach will be to focus on healthy kids rather than healthy weights to avoid the pitfalls of bias and stigma.

She then outlined the potential role of health units and gave an overview of how the funding grant decisions will be made. The hard deadline for applications for HKCC funding is March 14, and the selected communities will be announced soon after that, with the expectation that programs will launch almost immediately. The HPD will be providing coordination and support, and inquiries can be e-mailed to 

There is also a dedicated Web page for the HKCC, which is seeing plenty of activity. Based on the numerous downloads of information and applications from the site since it went live, it is assumed that there is a great deal of interest in the program, which bodes well for its future success.  

Responding to a question about evaluation, she reported that a team of childhood obesity, development and mental health experts is being assembled by Heather Manson at PHO to develop a clear set of indicators for the Healthy Kids Strategy as a whole and the Healthy Kids Community Challenge in particular.

Another question was raised about the rationale for streaming funding through municipalities, which has created some coordination challenges where municipalities are numerous and interest is high. The answer lies in the desire to closely replicate the EPODE methodology, which has achieved demonstrable results. The importance of local political leadership is a key component of the approach, and the focus at the outset will be to involve municipalities that are initially keen rather than expending energy convincing those who aren’t. The model is also based on the idea that there will be a Local Champion (in EPODE, it’s usually a Mayor or lead Councilman).

A final question was asked about the Health Equity dimension of this. Kate Manson-Smith acknowledged that social marketing initiatives can have a disparate impact on various communities, and she will bring this question back to the team regarding the potential use the Health Equity Impact Assessment tools. It was also clarified that some of this will be addressed by the application /selection process itself, as needs assessments at the community level are going to be closely examined alongside the adherence to the themes and the project design.

Provincial Legislation

Kate than provided brief updates on the status of three pieces of public health-related legislation:

Skin Cancer Prevention Act (Bill 30)

The Act was passed in the Fall, and regulations are due this spring.  More engagement is expected to discuss public health roles and funding for implementation.

Youth Smoking Prevention Act (Bill 131)

This Bill is in Second Reading. If passed, it would amend the Smoke Free Ontario Act to prohibit the sale of promotional items together with tobacco products, ban the sale of flavoured tobacco products, expand the list of places that an inspector is specifically empowered to enter and make adjustments to the penalty provisions.

Making Healthier Choices Act (Bill 162)

This is the Bill that delivers on the pledge to require the provision of nutritional information on the menus at large chain restaurants.


Section Meetings

The 2014 Winter Symposium concluded with the traditional Section meetings. Materials related to these meetings will be distributed in the usual manner to members of the COMOH and Boards of Health Section members.




Conference Proceedings

More InfoHide Info ]
Posted here are archived files from alPHa's past conferences, including fall and winter semi-annual meetings, our Annual Conference, as well as special-purpose and events that we have held in partnership with other organizations. In most cases, these are downloadable .pdf files that include summaries and presentations or links to external Web sites.
Item Name Posted By Date Posted
2015 PH Executive & Administrative Asst Conference PDF (144.71 KB)  more ] Administration 2015-02-17
2015 PH Exec & Admin Asst Conference Photos PDF (2.61 MB)  more ] Administration 2015-02-17
Proceedings from 2015 BOH Orientation Session Link  more ] Administration 2015-02-20
2008 Public Health Summit Link  more ] Administration 2012-07-31
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