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Monday Jun 04, 2018

Follow Day of Action With Year-round Effort

The 2018 Family Medicine Day of Action is now history. On May 22, more than 225 family physicians and medical students were on Capitol Hill to conduct more than 250 meetings with their representatives and senators.

[washington DC capital detail with american flag]

Does that mean we can pat ourselves on the back and say, "Good job?"

No, of course not.

Advocacy for any cause requires a year-round effort. One day in a legislator's office might result in a picture to share with others, but we need more than that to build relationships that lead to change.

Here are some takeaway thoughts from my recent trip to the Hill.

Build relationships: Building a relationship with your elected official is great, but building a relationship with their staff is even more important. Although elected politicians are the faces of their offices, those around them do the lion's share of the work. Legislative aides and assistants research bills and construct responses. They are the ones who answer the phones, read the e-mail and make the schedules. Getting to know them gets your foot in the door.

Be a trusted source of information: Who knows more about health care than a family physician? You are the source legislators and congressional staff can go to with any question about health care and get an answer. Subspecialists know a lot about their one area of expertise. A family doctor can answer questions from prenatal care and childbirth to preventive medicine and palliative care. We take care of patients from birth to hospice. Who better to be a medical resource for an elected official than a family physician?

Offer to help: No matter if you agree or disagree with the stance a lawmaker has taken in the past, be a resource about the needs and views of your patients. You may be just one person, but you interact with hundreds or thousands of their constituents annually. Let your lawmaker know you are a resource and be the one they can turn to when they need information about health care issues.

Be active on all levels: Hundreds of family physicians were in Washington recently, but we also have representatives on the state and local level. Reach out and get to know them, too. Give them the benefit of your knowledge about health care issues. Meet them when they come to your city, reach out to them on issues that impact patients. Let them know you care!

Use Academy resources: Don't know where the Academy stands on a particular issue? Use the AAFP's resources. Shawn Martin, senior vice president of advocacy, practice advancement and policy, writes the In the Trenches blog about national issues and advocacy. Also, be on the lookout for the Fighting for Family Medicine newsletter in your e-mail starting this week.

The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care is another wonderful source of information. Check out its State of Primary Care in the United States: A Chartbook of Facts and Statistics.(www.graham-center.org)

Support the PAC: If your state chapter has a PAC, give to it. The AAFP's FamMedPAC is the only political action committee lobbying for family medicine at the national level. You also can join the Family Medicine Action Network.

The most important thing to remember is that politicians are your elected representatives. Get to know them so you can discuss important topics with them. If you agree with their stand on issues, then support them. If you do not, then give them constructive feedback and influence them on health care issues. Be active in the process and be sure to vote on Election Day.

Leonard Reeves, M.D., is a member of the AAFP Board of Directors.

Posted at 04:19PM Jun 04, 2018 by Leonard Reeves, M.D.

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