“Spotlight: ALP Masters of Advocacy” is a CFAHC blog series that shines a light on individuals who completed the Advocacy Leadership Program (ALP). Each year the ALP begins at NACHC’s Policy & Issues Forum continues throughout the year via advocacy educational webinars and an ALP Advocacy Project. Participants learn from both NACHC Advocacy Staff and each other how to develop and hone their advocacy skills in order to build advocacy capacity and develop a robust network on the ground in their communities. These blog articles feature the creative and successful advocacy work completed by some graduates of the ALP.
Today, we’re hearing from Amber Walters, 2014 ALP Master of Advocacy, regarding her work to strengthen relationships with elected officials at Primary Health Network in western Pennsylvania.
Advocacy is defined in the dictionary as the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal. I learned through NACHC’s Advocacy Leadership Program the true meaning of advocacy is working together for the greater good of Health Centers. It was so interesting to see other Health Center’s perspectives on different issues and how different, yet similar, we all are.
My biggest challenge with advocacy is keeping in constant communication with elected officials. I work for the largest Health Center in Pennsylvania, and we currently serve 11 counties in the state as well as one county in Ohio – and we have plans to keep expanding. This means I have to maintain an ongoing relationship with two Governors, four Senators, six Congressmen, nine State Senators, and 15 State Representatives. This is much easier said than done, but advocacy leadership training has helped me make progress.
When I was promoted to Government and Public Relations Coordinator in October 2013, the government side of my new position scared me. I wasn’t sure how to go about maintaining relationships with elected officials, what laws I should be paying attention to, or who I even needed to contact. I am so grateful that the ALP was offered at P&I in spring 2014 because that is where I truly learned the most and got my feet wet in the world of advocacy.
I learned that there are people at NACHC and at my state association, the Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers, that help by identifying issues important to Health Centers so that it’s not necessary search for hours – they let you know exactly what is going to impact your Health Center. They also tell you who you need to talk to about these issues and the different methods to use to do so. They are great resources and are really helpful whenever I need guidance.
I would highly recommend Advocacy Leadership Program to any FQHC employee since we should all be Advocates for Health Centers, and I especially recommend the program to those in the role of government liaison. I am so grateful for my experience with the program and look forward to seeing many more graduates throughout the years. Thank you NACHC staff for educating us all and for investing in us.
Thank you, Amber, for being a shining example of a Health Center Advocate and for your work promoting Health Centers and the Access is the Answer campaign with your many elected officials! Congratulations on completing the ALP and being an official Master of Advocacy!