"Children hurting, I hear them crying"
-- Black Eyed Peas
According to member surveys, one of the most important and valued services the AAFP provides to its members is advocacy. Advocacy on behalf of family medicine is something we prioritize as an organization. Our efforts range from advocating for higher payment and lower administrative burden for family physicians to smoking cessation programs and expanded access to vaccines for children.
I frequently note in this blog that family medicine is diverse, and our membership reflects that diversity. As a result, our advocacy efforts, while anchored in our strategic objectives, are also diverse.
Independent evaluation of performance is a standard operating procedure for corporations and organizations. However, few organizations evaluate their advocacy programs. In July 2017, the AAFP decided to engage in a partnership with Ballast Research to evaluate the efficacy and impact of our advocacy activities.
Ballast, through an extensive quantitative and qualitative process that includes interviews with more than 2,000 administration officials, congressional staff and thought leaders, evaluates the largest advocacy organizations (all industries) in Washington, D.C., on four criteria:
So, how are we doing? I am pleased to report that the AAFP is recognized as one of the most effective, influential and impactful advocacy organizations in Washington. Here is what we have learned from the research:
I am extremely proud to report that the AAFP was found to be the most effective organization in Washington with respect to sharing research and data on the impact of policy. This reflects our commitment to basing our advocacy objectives on evidence-based policy and not on political whims.
Overall, the AAFP is doing well in our efforts to advocate on behalf of our members, but we are not satisfied. There were areas where we underperformed, and we will be working hard to improve our performance in the coming year. One of those areas is our grassroots advocacy and in-district/state advocacy. Look for new programs focusing on this work to be introduced in 2018.
Two weeks ago, the nation witnessed a tragedy that resulted in the senseless loss of 17 lives, most of them children. We continue to mourn for those families and the community of Parkland, Fla. We also have begun to ask questions and search for answers. In the aftermath of events such as those that took place on Feb. 14th in Parkland, there is an outcry for a number of public policies directed at preventing future mass casualty events and further loss of life. One of the policies advanced is research into gun violence and gun-related deaths.
The discussion around this subject is complicated. Most people refer to an existing "ban" on gun violence and gun-related death research, which is false. Although there is not a ban, there is a prohibition on the use of such research and a real limitation on funding for such research. Most of the confusion comes from a lack of understanding of the so-called Dickey Amendment.
The Dickey Amendment is a policy rider, originally included in a 1996 appropriation bill, that forbids the CDC from using appropriated dollars to "advocate or promote gun control." The policy rider, which was endorsed and promoted by the National Rifle Association, was introduced by Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Ark., in response to growing concerns that research at the CDC was potentially establishing a correlation between having a gun in the home and an increased risk of homicide and suicide. In addition to the presence of the Dickey Amendment, Congress has consistently reduced funding levels for the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control to discourage research on gun-related violence and death.
After the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., in 2012, Dickey, who left office in 2001, co-authored a Washington Post editorial titled "We won't know the cause of gun violence until we look for it" with Mark Rosenberg, a former director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. In the article, Dickey and Rosenberg conclude: "We were on opposite sides of the heated battle 16 years ago, but we are in strong agreement now that scientific research should be conducted into preventing firearm injuries and that ways to prevent firearm deaths can be found without encroaching on the rights of legitimate gun owners. The same evidence-based approach that is saving millions of lives from motor vehicle crashes, as well as from smoking, cancer and HIV/AIDS, can help reduce the toll of deaths and injuries from gun violence."
The AAFP, based on policies approved by the Congress of Delegates, supports congressional action to remove the Dickey Amendment and, furthermore, we strongly support dedicated funding that would allow the CDC to research violence that involves a gun. The issues of guns and gun violence are politically charged and precarious to navigate. However, answers tend to come into focus as a result of unbiased study and analysis. The AAFP believes it is time to conduct such research, independent of bias and external influence, and determine the best approaches to reducing gun violence and gun-related deaths through an evidenced-based process.
Stephanie Quinn, AAFP Senior Vice President of Advocacy, Practice Advancement and Policy. Read author bio »