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Building Understanding of Environmental Health

A Communications Toolkit

This toolkit is designed to help environmental health professionals to frame environmental health and related issues as important policy fields and matters of public concern.


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

Understanding the “swamp” of public thinking
Building public will with Values





Building public understanding with Explanatory Metaphors

Why are metaphors such powerful reframes?
Learn more about Ground Crew.
Learn more about Upstream/Downstream.



Key Framing Guides

Useful guides to keep communicators on frame.

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

Metaphor Visualization: Environmental Ground Crew

This short explanatory animation explains how the work of Environmental Health often happens out of sight by a Ground Crew who ensure that we live in healthy built environments.

Metaphor Visualization: Upstream/Downstream

This short explanatory animation explains how conditions in upstream environments travel downstream and impact human health in surprising ways.

Research Base

Dig deeper into the evidence base that informs this toolkit