Building Understanding of
Environmental Health

A Communications Toolkit

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Welcome to Framing Environmental Health—a collection of framing research, recommendations, and sample communications.

This toolkit is designed to help voices in the environmental health sector increase public understanding of

  • the relationship between environmental conditions and public health;
  • the challenges our nation faces in addressing environmental health risks;
  • the importance of research and regulatory efforts in protecting Americans’ environmental health; and
  • the nature of the work performed by thousands of highly trained environmental health professionals to sustain and improve the vitality of our communities’ natural and built environments.

This toolkit, sponsored by the American Public Health Association with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is designed to help environmental health professionals to frame environmental health and related issues as important policy fields and matters of public concern. The toolkit models how to use the FrameWorks Institute’s evidence-based recommendations for communicating with average Americans about these issues in ways that build public understanding and support.

The kit’s materials include:

  • sample “ready to go” communications that can be used as is or adapted and repurposed for your organization’s needs;
  • communications examples that demonstrate the “do’s and don’ts” of the framing recommendations;
  • graphics and video animations that model the key concepts of the recommendations;
  • annotations that explain the framing strategies being illustrated.

When communicating with the public or policymakers, users are encouraged to borrow toolkit language verbatim if desired, or adapt it to their needs—no citation or special permissions are needed in this instance. For other uses of toolkit materials – such as incorporating these materials into other trainings or communications resources - please refer to FrameWorks Institute’s terms of use for guidance on seeking permissions.

For 15 years, FrameWorks Institute research has demonstrated that effective communications can help activate the public’s engagement with complex social issues—such as the environmental health policies and practices necessary to protect public health in the face of climate-related and other changing environmental conditions. This toolkit is based on the findings of four years of multi-method social science research that queried the thinking of more than 4,500 Americans and included expert interviews, literature reviews, peer discourse sessions, on-the-street interviews, large-scale surveys and usability trials. For more on the evidence base that informs the recommendations in this toolkit, visit our website.

The Big Picture

Why does the environmental health field need a framing strategy, and what does this communications research have to offer the field? These two pieces offer an overview.

Video Lectures

Listen in as senior researchers offer guided tours of communications research on EH

Key Framing Guides

Useful guides to keep communicators on frame.

The Swamp!

Visual summary of relevant findings from cultural models research.

You Say, They Think

See how communications can backfire.


Stay on message in the face of tough questions.

Communication Samples

Models of how to put the frame elements into action

Presenter Tools

Animations make it easy to add tested metaphors to your communications

Research Base

Dig deeper into the evidence base that informs this toolkit

People, Polar Bears, and the Potato Salad (2011).

This report lays the groundwork for the larger reframing project by comparing expert perspectives on environmental health with those of average Americans. Data from interviews with both expert and lay informants were compared to examine gaps in understanding that can ultimately be addressed through strategic communication strategies.

The Media Narrative of Environmental Health (2012).

This report analyzes media coverage of the field of environmental health. Dominant media frames in narratives related to environmental issues are compared to expert narratives and public thinking on environmental health. Data includes relevant stories from newspapers across the country, television broadcasts, and news-oriented blogs collected between January 2010 and January 2012.

Using Values to Build Public Understanding and Support for Environmental Health Work (2013).

This report details the findings from an experimental survey of 2,600 registered voters designed to identify values that elevate public support for the environmental health field and its work. Of five values tested, Fairness Across Places proved highly effective in bridging gaps between expert and public understandings about environmental health.

We Need a Ground Crew for Environmental Health Working Upstream: Using Explanatory Metaphors to Improve Public Understanding of Environmental Health and its Workforce (2014).

This report presents the results of qualitative and quantitative research designed to develop two Explanatory Metaphors—Upstream Environments, Downstream Health and Ground Crew for Environmental Health—that help the public to think more productively about the scope and importance of environmental health work.