Buckle Up Kids to Save Lives in the Philippines

Bloomberg Philanthropies wanted to tackle this problem head-on and brought in the Global Health Advocacy Incubator as part of a robust team of partners and stakeholders, including the Global Road Safety Partnership and the World Health Organization. Quickly, a broad coalition of local partners was formed that included public health experts, attorneys, advocates, journalists and more. They looked to the Global Health Advocacy Incubator to lead skills training workshops, develop action plans and share global best practices in advocacy to help them achieve their objective – a national law requiring the use of child car seats.

After a concentrated effort to raise the issue's profile, draft legislation, and build public and political support for a legislative solution, the Filipino legislature passed a mandatory child restraint bill at the end of 2018, with broad, multiparty support in both houses of Congress. The coalition celebrated a dramatic victory, one that is certain to save lives. With technical assistance from the Global Health Advocacy Incubator, the coalition worked directly with legislators to draft the bill, inform deliberations and ensure passage in both the House and Senate. The coalition worked tirelessly to earn media, support and encourage lawmakers, and make the case that child car seats would save the lives of Filipino kids. Here’s how they did it.

The Filipino legislature passed a mandatory child restraint bill at the end of 2018, with broad, multiparty support in both houses of Congress.

Building a team

The Philippines has a strong tradition of civil society engagement. Seasoned public health advocates recognized a need to diversify expertise and expand capacity in road safety. The Global Health Advocacy Incubator supported local leaders in building a robust, integrated, passionate coalition, utilizing our extensive network to identify and attract new partners to the cause. The coalition zeroed in on an advocacy goal that would benefit some of the most vulnerable road users – children who are not using car seats – and began preparing a campaign plan to pass a mandatory child restraint law in the Philippines.

Designing a campaign

Successful policy change requires careful planning. The first step of the campaign was to conduct a thorough analysis of the political, media and civil society environments that would shape the legislative process. As a technical advisor, the Global Health Advocacy Incubator helped local partners in the Philippines map the policy process, identify key stakeholders and potential champions inside and outside of government, and evaluate the media coverage on road safety to determine how to best build political support and engage the public. That information was incorporated into an integrated campaign plan that mapped out the strategic path forward.

Telling the story

Elected representatives draft and pass laws in the Philippines, so demonstrating public support for a child restraint law was a critical element of the campaign plan. The Global Health Advocacy Incubator provided technical assistance to the local coalition as they honed in on a persuasive, positive message and supported qualitative and quantitative research and message testing to measure effectiveness. Local staff in Manila collected their findings into a campaign strategy that became a vital resource for the full coalition and allied groups on the ground.

Based on the research, the coalition launched a robust earned media strategy. High-level spokespeople blanketed the airwaves, appearing on television and radio to share information about child restraints and road safety. The coalition leaned on the Global Health Advocacy Incubator’s technical expertise to strengthen its owned media strategy, developing a Facebook page called Buckle Up Kids PH capable of generating more than 50,000 engagements per month. The Global Health Advocacy Incubator provided the coalition members leading the digital strategy with customized training covering topics from creating engaging content on social media and managing an online community to setting up data reporting structures to measure impact.

The Global Health Advocacy Incubator also supported the coalition’s need for paid advertising, advising on a print, television and radio campaign calling for passage of a child restraint law with a reach of 95 million – almost the entire population of the Philippines.

Persuading policymakers

A core component of the Global Health Advocacy Incubator’s advocacy framework is to develop a thorough understanding of the processes and players that will be involved in the campaign. Political mapping, which clarifies the policy process and identifies key decision-makers and stakeholders at every stage, provides advocates with the information they need to identify potential supporters and opponents, build relationships with key policymakers, and inform the messaging and timing of the media strategy.

The information that emerged provided a road map to engage policymakers. Soon advocates were hard at work providing technical expertise to draft the legislation, developing campaign materials to share with policymakers, and identifying potential champions to promote the legislation and push it forward.

The open political system in the Philippines provided regular opportunities to meet with policymakers and build a coalition of support in Congress. These champions helped pave the way for the legislation to move through the House and Senate.

Victory

On Jan. 30, 2018, House Bill 6938, an Act Providing for the Special Protection of Child Passengers in Motor Vehicles, was passed out of the House of Representatives with no objections. Then, on Oct. 8, the Senate passed a companion bill, Senate Bill 1971, an Act Providing for the Special Protection of Child Passengers in Motor Vehicles by a unanimous vote.

As required under Filipino law, both versions of the bill had to be reconciled before transmittal to the Office of the President. After a bicameral committee hearing on Nov. 26, 2018, the strongest elements of the bills were merged into a final version and prepared for transmittal. The Global Health Advocacy Incubator and local partners worked with members of Congress throughout this complicated process. On Feb. 22, 2019, President Duterte signed the bill into law.

The Filipino coalition has much to celebrate. The coalition helped pass one of the first mandatory child restraint laws in Asia, which is certain to save the lives of vulnerable children on the roads. Yet the coalition hasn’t rested. Now the work begins to implement the new law, bringing a new set of advocacy challenges and opportunities that the Global Health Advocacy Incubator will continue to support.

Child Restraint Laws

Child restraints have been proven to significantly reduce injury and death in the event of a crash. Yet many countries still do not have mandatory child restraint laws. The Philippines was one of those countries.