Over a period of three months of online learning culminating with a face-to-face workshop in Paris, a cross-section of experts from cancer societies and foundations from across Europe showed how policy-making works in the European Union and how to influence it at both the national and European level.
Alongside European advocates wishing to learn how to interact with and influence decision-makers in their context, Luis Caceres, acting at the time as a Consultant for the Latino Cancer Institute in the United States, also participated in the course to hear about lessons from the European perspective that he could apply to his own settings.
What follows is what he gained from the experience.
At the time of the application, I was working as a consultant with the newly formed Latino Cancer Institute (LCI) in the United States. I was tasked to develop a strategic and operational plan for LCI, which examined stakeholder relationships at the state, federal and international level, including potential for collaboration with organisations in the European Union.
I felt the course was an excellent opportunity to hear about policy-making in a context which, due to its multiple institutional layers, resembled that of the United States. I was curious to see what lessons could be applied that could benefit the diverse and significant "Latino" population in the United States.
At the same time, I was also volunteering with the Tobacco Control Working Group at the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA) in Geneva, Switzerland. The research assigment of the course provided me with an opportunity to focus in detail on advocacy strategies which were specific to the area of tobacco control.
The course had a variety of components touching on subjects from across the policy-making process and I was able to tailor the practical assignments to inform my specific areas of interest.
Working on the development of concise policy briefs, on stakeholder mapping and engagement as well as on processes to identify policy opportunities was particularly useful for my strategic and business planning consultancy with the Latino Cancer Institute.
The Master course also required the undertaking of a detailed country-specific research, which I focused on Slovakia and its status around tobacco use and tobacco control policies. This also turned out to be a very relevant exercise in relation to my involvement with the WFPHA’s Tobacco Control Working Group.
I was able to leverage the tools from the course to inform the development of the strategic and business plan of the Latino Cancer Institute. In particular, the course learning helped me in areas such as summarizing the current state of cancer burden among "Latino American" communities in the United States; identifying potential alliances and partner organisations to work with; and designing the engagement priorities and processes necessary going forward. Overall the course helped me enhance my strategic planning and model design skills and my ability to analyse, synthesize and organise key policy information from different jurisdictions.
Finally, I learned a great deal about tobacco control in the European Union, especially in Slovakia. Being exposed to examples from other jurisdictions, in any region, is always valuable as it broadens our thinking and nurtures our ability to come up with creative solutions for the many challenges we face in public health generally and cancer control specifically.
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