Family physicians are on the front lines of how public health policy affects their patients. If you see something that needs changing, however, how do you get it done? Elected officials, be they your mayor, councilmember, or state representative, are a good place to start. Engaging them shouldn’t be intimidating. Here are four steps to follow:
1. Understand what motivates elected officials. Most locally elected officials truly want to build a better community. If your health policy goals help politicians achieve their goals, they should be willing to listen to your solutions and work with you.
2. Make a connection. You may share the same interests outside health care or belong to the same civic organizations, clubs, religious organizations, or school-based activities as elected officials, which could be a good way to make a social connection. Joining membership organizations in your community or attending political party meetings or fundraisers are other options. Also, you can learn a lot about an elected official’s interests or goals by looking at his or her social media. Some officials may be more likely to respond to you over social media than return a phone call to their office.
3. Schedule a meeting. Once you connect with an elected official, leverage that into a meeting where you can discuss your policy ideas. A quick drink or coffee after work may be all it takes to get the ball rolling.
4. Serve on a commission, task force, or advisory board. Many local governments have commissions, task forces, or advisory groups where policy discussions originate and where the voice of a community physician would be valued. Some communities have a Board of Health that needs volunteer members, especially physicians. Find a group that interests you and get involved.
Read the full FPM article: “Practical Strategies to Achieve Your Health Policy Goals.”
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