Guest Author: Emma Lisec
Summer 2015 Intern for the Grassroots Advocacy Team at National Association of Community Health Centers Senior at Tulane University, Class of 2016 | New Orleans, LA
My name is Emma Lisec and I am an intern this summer for the Grassroots Advocacy team at the National Association of Community Health Centers. I am a rising senior at Tulane University double majoring in Public Health and International Development. As part of my final project I interviewed representatives from top performing health centers around the nation in order to learn about their practices that deserve recognition. From these conversations I created a list of ten tips to support advocacy initiatives at health centers.
- The first step to establishing an outstanding advocacy program at a health center is to engage your colleagues.
One way to do this is to host an Advocacy 101 training. The training could be in the form of an introductory video or a seminar hosted by staff members actively involved in out-reach and activism at your health center.
- A second step to supporting advocacy at your health center is to encourage all staff members, including providers, to talk to patients about ongoing advocacy efforts.
These conversations can take place in many places throughout the health center. For example, in her interview Jennifer Morse at Salud Family Health Center described how patients, after checking in to their appointment, are often asked to sign petitions to support the most recent call to action. Jennifer cited the front desk as the best place to quickly engage patients.
- Another important aspect of advocacy at any health center is using NACHC’s resources to support initiatives at the federal, state, and local level.
Although the Campaign for America’s Health Centers is a crucial ongoing effort, there are also state and local issues that regularly affect the patient population. For example, Dante Rosh and Marisol de la Vega from Family HealthCare Network are working on increasing the hours of intermittent clinics in the state of California. Primary care clinics operating on an intermittent basis are currently allowed to stay open for twenty hours. However, with the support of advocates, staff, and patients in the state of California a bill is expected to pass increasing the number of in-service hours. Additionally, health centers are in a good position to recognize and advocate for solutions on behalf of their patients regarding everyday issues such as housing, domestic violence and food security. The work Martina Persson is doing at Open Door is a perfect example of this. She is involved in a countywide coalition that lobbies for bills that affect patients and other organizations in their community.
- In order to support these efforts, health centers should collaborate with like-minded agencies and local elected officials.
Examples include community organizations, neighborhood councils, and hospitals in the area. These partnerships will to align, advocate, and connect with community members.
- When building an advocacy program it is important to find a way to brand out-reach efforts at your health center.
Some examples include a newsletter or personalized email template for advocacy messages and updates. In her interview Amanda Palmore at Central Virginia Health Services explained that staff are trained to hand out a blue card with Amanda’s and the state legislator’s contact information when they hear stories or overhear patients talking about issues that could be targeted with advocacy efforts. Patients are encouraged to share their story with staff members and local officials.
- For this reason, it is essential to create a safe space for people to talk about issues that require advocacy.
Examples of these issues are increasing access to care, registering to vote, and expanding Medicaid. One way to achieve this is to regularly interact with patients in order to form a trusting relationship.
- A good way to monitor the success of advocacy initiatives at your health center is to ask NACHC for progress reports.
These statistics can then be used to track changes in the number of patient and staff advocates, monitor email response rates, and set goals for your health center. These numbers can also be used to recognize and reward staff members that go above and beyond. For example, Maggie Norris at Westside Family Healthcare spoke to a member on the health center’s Board of Directors that collected over fifty signed letters of support from doctors at the hospital where he works.
- It is also impactful to make sure staff members and fellow advocates attend advocacy training and webinars whenever possible.
Training sessions and online webinars allow you to hear inspiring stories and creative ideas for engaging patients in advocacy. Additionally, these opportunities are a good place to ask questions and share the latest success at your health center!
- Lastly, do not forget that the Grassroots Advocacy team is here to help.
Email email@example.com with any questions!
I also want to give a special thanks to all the health centers that dedicated advocates that took the time to share their story:
- Rebecca Shaw and Stephanie Wiersma from Lorain County Health and Dentistry
- Maggie Norris from Westside Family Healthcare
- Jennifer Morse from Salud Family Health Center
- Glenn Cassidy from Yakima Neighborhood Health Services
- Date Rosh and Marisol de la Vega from Family HealthCare Network
- Amanda Palmore from Central Virginia Health Services
- Martina Persson from Open Door