The middle-out perspective: an approach to formalise 'normal practice' in public health advocacy

J S Mindell, Y Parag, S E Bartington, L Stoll, J Barlow, K B Janda

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AIMS: The middle-out perspective (MOP) provides a lens to examine how actors positioned between government (top) and individuals (bottom) act to promote broader societal changes from the middle-out (rather than the top-down or bottom-up). The MOP has been used in recent years in the fields of energy, climate change, and development studies. We argue that public health practitioners involved with advocacy activities and creating alliances to amplify health promotion actions will be familiar with the general MOP concept if not the formal name. The article aims to demonstrate this argument.

METHODS: This article introduces the MOP conceptual framework and customises it for a public health audience by positioning it among existing concepts and theories for actions within public health. Using two UK case studies (increasing signalised crossing times for pedestrians and the campaign for smoke-free legislation), we illustrate who middle actors are and what they can do to result in better public health outcomes.

RESULTS: These case studies show that involving a wider range of middle actors, including those not traditionally involved in improving the public's health, can broaden the range and reach of organisations and individuals involving in advocating for public health measures. They also demonstrate that middle actors are not neutral. They can be recruited to improve public health outcomes, but they may also be exploited by commercial interests to block healthy policies or even promote a health-diminishing agenda.

CONCLUSION: Using the MOP as a formal approach can help public health organisations and practitioners consider potential 'allies' from outside traditional health-related bodies or professions. Formal mapping can expand the range of who are considered potential middle actors for a particular public health issue. By applying the MOP, public health organisations and staff can enlist the additional leverage that is brought to bear by involving additional middle actors in improving the public's health.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPerspectives in Public Health
Early online date30 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Dec 2022


  • advocacy
  • health improvement
  • middle-out perspective
  • public health
  • middle actors


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