Health Center Advocacy: A Year in Review

Health Center Advocates Make the Access is the Answer Campaign a Success

Without a doubt,  Health Center Advocates’ greatest victory in 2015 was their successful fight against the health center funding cliff via the Access is the Answer campaign. Health Center Advocates engaged over 4,300 local elected officials and community partners in the Access is the Answer campaign by asking them to write letters of support. Nearly 11,000 health center staff signed similar letters, and over 200,000 individuals across the United States stood up for health centers by signing the Access is the Answer petition. But those efforts were just the beginning. Health Center Advocates kept raising the advocacy bar, taking even more action to ensure the success of the Health Center Program for the next 50 years by publishing Op-Eds in local newspapers and passing board resolutions in support of the Access is the Answer campaign. In a final incredible show of advocacy action Health Center Advocates generated nearly 25,000 phone calls to Congress to demand action to fix the funding cliff.

This incredible show of advocacy action for the Health Center Program and the patients served by Health Centers made Congress pay attention. In April, Congress passed H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), containing language that successfully averted the health center funding cliff for two years and continued funding for the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Centers Program – two programs essential to the Health Center Program.

In the final hours, when Congress was deciding whether to fix the Health Center funding cliff or wait until the last minute, Members of Congress paraded to the floor  in both the U.S. House and Senate and repeatedly cited Health Centers as one of the reasons they had decided to vote YES to pass this important legislation. These comments and YES votes were not accidental – they were a result of tens of thousands of advocates taking action via the Access is the Answer campaign to make the case for Health Centers and the critical need to fix the cliff. The power of Health Center Advocacy has never been more real or recognizable!

Health Centers’ Engage Their Diverse Communities in Advocacy and Civic Engagement  

In keeping with the community and consumer driven Health Center Model, in 2015 the NACHC advocacy department launched the Hispanic Advocacy Program (HAP). Through the HAP, Hispanic Advocates have attended advocacy webinars and participated in interactive advocacy trainings at health center conferences, all conducted in Spanish. In 2015 Health Center Advocates were able to engage their Spanish-speaking colleagues, patients, and communities at large in health center advocacy using NACHC translated advocacy materials ranging from social media images and videos to translated Access is the Answer templates. An initial local partner group of seven health centers began participating in the HAP as official HAP sites, assisting NACHC in developing new and innovative ways to reach their communities and engage them in advocacy on a range of important issues. As we look ahead to 2016, the NACHC advocacy team is excited to continue growing the HAP, to engage more Health Centers, and to find new ways to support the work health centers do to engage the increasingly diverse communities health centers serve in advocacy.

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Representative Steve Knight posted photos after visiting Santa Clarita Valley Health Center during National Health Center Week 2015.

Advocates Conquer Social Media, #AccessistheAnswer #NHCW15

This year Health Centers, primary care associations, and individual advocates alike took their advocacy online and created a powerful voice in support of health centers. Throughout the year, Advocates were tweeting, posting, and sharing content all over the internet in support of the amazing work health centers do. This year #AccessistheAnswer generated nearly 1 million impressions, meaning nearly 1 million individuals on Twitter received Tweets in their newsfeeds containing Access is the Answer’s official campaign hashtag, #AccessistheAnswer. Online activity also skyrocketed during this year’s National Health Center Week celebration, generating nearly 45 million impressions with #NHCW15!

Many Members of Congress have already engaged with health centers via their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Why does this matter? A recent report entitled #Social Congress 2015 found that less than 30 posts on a Members’ social media account can grab that Member’s attention on an issue. In an increasingly digital world, Health Center Advocates’ online presence and influence is not only an incredibly powerful political tool, it is becoming a necessity for continued relevance.

Celebrating Our Legacy, Shaping Our Future – National Health Center Week 2015

Advocates truly went above and beyond during NHCW 2015 by hosting celebrations fitting of Health Centers’ 50th Anniversary, organizing countless health fairs, Congressional visits, and other events, and making 2015 a record year for NHCW participation and celebrations. This year over 65 Members of Congress and countless state and local elected officials visited health centers as part of NHCW 2015. 30 states, counties, and other localities official proclaimed August 9th-15th, 2015 National Health Center Week as did President Obama in a proclamation for the sixth consecutive year. HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Health Center Program Founding Father, Dr. Jack Geiger, showed their support for health centers by participating in a national TeleForum in honor of NHCW. In turn, Health Center Advocates across the country showed their support by Tweeting and re-tweeting, generating nearly 8,000 unique Tweets and nearly 45 million impressions on Twitter.

Advocacy Leaders Continue to Shine

Every year leaders in the Health Center Advocacy Network continue to go above and beyond the call of duty in their fight to protect and grow the health center program. This year, NACHC advocacy recognized several of these advocacy leaders via the Outstanding Advocate initiative.

This year’s Outstanding Advocates include:

NACHC’s advocacy team also continues to recognize those health centers and individuals that showed their support for the Access is the Answer campaign by consistently participating in its action steps via Access All-Stars. Keep an eye out on the Campaign for America’s Health Centers blog for more Access All-Stars.

Finally, a new class of NACHC’s Advocacy Leadership Program completed the rigorous advocacy training and culminating advocacy project this September. These ALP alum, along with alums from previous years, continue to multiply the voice of the Health Center Movement in the communities they serve by organizing and mobilizing their colleagues, Boards, and patients alike. Take a look at the graduates of the 2015 ALP program here.

The Health Center Movement was truly a force to be reckoned with throughout 2015, but the work of a Health Center Advocate is never complete. As health centers continue to serve more patients through increasingly innovative models of care, the strength of their advocacy voice at all levels of government will only become more necessary for continued support and success.

The 50 year legacy of success of the Health Center Program was built by a passionate group of Health Center Advocates, that stood up, took action, and fought tirelessly to ensure those in need had access to high quality, affordable care, regardless of ability to pay.  As we begin the next chapter in the next 50 years of the Program, Health Center Advocates will continue to represent the next generation of passionate voices and actions on behalf of America’s Health Centers and the patients they serve. It is that VOICE and commitment to Health Center Advocacy that will determine the future of this great Program. And we, the NACHC Advocacy Team, look forward to being by your side each step of the way.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2016.

The NACHC Advocacy Team,

Amanda Pears Kelly – Director of National Advocacy & Civic Engagement

Alex Harris – Grassroots Advocacy Manager of Special Populations

Elizabeth Kwasnik – Grassroots Advocacy Manager

Dorian Wanzer – Grassroots Advocacy Manager of Communications & Outreach



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