Guest blog post by Steven L. Evans, MSM, Public Affairs/Marketing/Development Coordinator, and a former board member, for New Horizon Family Health Services, Inc. in Greenville, SC. Mr. Evans will be speaking at this year’s NACHC Policy & Issues Forum on Friday, March 22, 3:30pm, during a session titled “Growing Your Health Center’s Grassroots Advocacy Program.”
The health center movement is the living illustration of grassroots activism at its best. During the inaugural years of the movement, community leaders educated, empowered, and engaged everyone willing to embrace the new model of health care. It is that same fervor to community service and activism that calls the leadership of today’s community centers. The leadership that continuously answers the call of the faintest voice in the village is the community health center board. The community health center boards are influential reflections and representatives of the communities that trust and depend on the quality, affordable, and patient-centered health care delivered by health centers throughout the nation. Because of board members’ steadfast commitment to the health center cause and their trusted connections within the public and political circles, they are the logical architects to draft the blueprints for effective advocacy committees. After the blueprint has been drafted, the leadership then prepares an organizational culture and community commitment that effectively support all that it means to be a community health center.
Community health center boards have been nominated and confirmed because of their community trust and their relationship to the local community health center mission. The community trust is respected by constituent and congressman alike. Thus, the board becomes the perfect liaison between the layman and legislation. Whether patient or community partner, board members know and understand the mission and vision of their respective community health centers. Knowledge is power, and board members do not hoard that power. Board members share their knowledge to empower health center staff members, patients, the general public, and elected officials to make better choices on behalf of the health center movement. The boards recognize the expertise of health center staff and the dedication of community volunteers. Leading by example, health center boards are able to form advocacy committees that are composed of board members, community health center staff members, and community advocates to develop a landscape designed to fully engage all parties in the advocacy process. Once all of the stakeholders and policymakers are engaged in the advocacy process, the accountability becomes a continuous driving force for everyone one. The advocacy committee then becomes effective because of accountability, education, transparency, and involvement.
Understand a blueprint is just a blueprint if a structure is never constructed. The board may be the necessary architects for the design and framework, but the local community health center must become the floors for the advocacy to stand upon. The local community and community partners must become the walls that protect the core of the health center movement. The patients must be the windows that allow the world to see how wonderfully health centers care and serve all. The elected officials must then become the roof of the edifice to protect the structure from all of the elements that could damage all that the health center movement champions and patients have struggled to build.
–Steven L. Evans