Reframing newsletter

We’re All In This Together

April 20, 2017

In the March 9 newsletter, we talked about how right now the public is primed to understand issues and process information through the “separate fates” cultural model, the belief that what happens to an individual only affects that individual and their immediate circle. This perspective masks the collective benefits of human services, making it harder to secure the public’s support for the range of policies and programs that help build physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being.

We can neutralize the separate fates model by using plain language to articulate the societal benefits of programs and policies. Take the debate around health care. Health care access has long been framed primarily as a benefit for individuals. Through this frame, though it is unfortunate when someone doesn’t have access to the health care they need, the perception is that it doesn’t impact the broader community.

In the recent attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, for example, advocates highlighted the estimated 24 million Americans who were expected to lose insurance under Speaker Ryan’s American Health Care Act. In the short-term, the data point was strong enough to help keep the repeal plan from passing. But in the long-term, the message plays into the separate fates model by highlighting the implications for individuals (24 million will lose their insurance) without defining what it means to our society when people don’t have insurance.

With some small changes to the message, which FrameWorks Institute recommends below, we can shift away from the separate fates model and towards a model of “interdependence,” where the ways in which we all benefit are explicitly included in the conversation.

Health Care reframing

The health care debate is far from over, with proposals to make significant changes to Medicaid, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act looming on the horizon. We anticipate similar debates about a range of human services that have traditionally been framed as primarily benefiting the individual participants, such as education, early childhood development, nutrition assistance, services for older people, and violence prevention. Our advocacy efforts will benefit greatly by affirming the ways in which we all benefit from these services.