Advocacy

Medical Neutrality Protection Act

The Medical Neutrality Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 2643) is a bipartisan bill, largely drafted by PHR, that makes the protection of medical professionals and access to medical services a global policy priority for the US government. The bill also calls for the creation of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Medical Neutrality. Upon introduction, the legislation was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

This toolkit provides details on the Medical Neutrality Protection Act and actions that can be taken to support its passage. The toolkit also provides a brief introduction to the principle of Medical Neutrality, its foundation in medical ethics and international law, and violations of Medical Neutrality.

A downloadable version of this toolkit is also available:

For the more on PHR’s work promoting the Principle of Medical Neutrality, visit our website [1].

The Medical Neutrality Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 2643) is a bipartisan bill, largely drafted by PHR, that makes the protection of medical professionals and access to medical services a global policy priority for the US government. The bill also … Continue reading

An Introduction To Asylum

What is asylum?

Asylum is the process by which a person fleeing persecution in his or her country of origin can seek protection in another country. Every year, thousands of individuals who have suffered violence, injustice, and torture, seek asylum in the United States. When granted, asylum within the US can eventually lead to permanent residency. This legal status also allows an asylee to work legally, to apply to bring family members into the country, and to enter and exit the country freely.

Who can apply for asylum?

Those who flee their country of origin and reach the United States can apply for protection in the form of asylum due to persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The US also recognizes women who have undergone forced abortion, involuntary sterilization, and who have suffered persecution for resistance to a forced birth control program, as eligible for asylum.

For those whose experiences may not fit the stringent requirements for asylum, the following forms of relief from deportation are also available:

  • The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): This 1994 US Federal Law can serve as a basis of protection for victims of domestic violence.
  • Withholding of Removal: Often applied for simultaneously with the asylum application, this process prevents deportation in the case that a person is “more likely than not” to face persecution if forced to return to his or her home country.
  • Convention Against Torture (CAT): Although more difficult to obtain than asylum, CAT status allows those who fear torture that is not necessarily based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, to apply to remain in the US.
  • U-Visa: A U-Visa gives up to four years of legal status and work eligibility to victims of certain crimes who cooperate with law enforcement.
  • T-Visa: A T-Visa allows certain human trafficking victims to remain in the US if they agree to testify against perpetrators.

What happens when a person applies for asylum?

The process of seeking asylum is controlled by complex US immigration law. It has become increasingly difficult to gain asylum since the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Among other things, this law established requirements for the expedited removal and detention of any asylum seeker who arrives in the US without valid permission to enter the country, and has led to the detention of many asylum seekers who have no criminal record.

The detention system is based on the punitive model of criminal incarceration, and many asylum seekers suffer poor living conditions, high psychological stress, and inadequate access to health services while in detention. The lack of appropriate mental health and other health services has led to an unacceptable number of avoidable deaths within the detention system. Being incarcerated makes it extremely difficult for individuals to seek evidence, correspond with attorneys, and otherwise prepare successful asylum applications.  Additional barriers to successful asylum petitions include language differences between asylum seekers and immigration officials, the lack of social and financial resources, and a general lack of understanding of how to seek asylum.

To evaluate an affirmative asylum case, an asylum officer will conduct a detailed interview in which the asylum seeker must demonstrate that he or she cannot return to his or her country of origin due to past persecution or a reasonable fear of future persecution. If an asylum seeker already has an order to appear before an immigration judge, they must prepare a defensive asylum application, which means a judge will hear the case in an adversarial setting.  The interview and court proceedings are often extremely difficult and traumatizing for the asylum seeker, as they are forced to recount the details of experiences which may include torture and other severe forms of persecution.

The medical documentation of an asylee’s suffering is hugely influential; in some cases medical professionals who have conducted forensic evaluations may be brought in to testify on the asylum seeker’s behalf so that their findings can have maximum impact on decision-makers. Although 90% of asylum cases with a medical evaluation are approved, the lack of qualified volunteer physicians means that the majority of asylum seekers do not receive this important, potentially life-saving, assistance.

Eventually, the asylum seeker will receive a decision on his or her case, and depending on the circumstances, might have a few legal options left, or may be immediately ordered back to his or her country of origin. Those who receive asylum can immediately begin work and petition to bring their family members into the country.

How long does it take to be granted asylum?

With few exceptions, the 1996 Law requires that applications for asylum be filed within one year of arrival within the United States. However, detained asylum seekers can remain in detention anywhere from months to years while they await decisions on their cases.

What is asylum? Asylum is the process by which a person fleeing persecution in his or her country of origin can seek protection in another country. Every year, thousands of individuals who have suffered violence, injustice, and torture, seek asylum … Continue reading

Planning and Leading an Event

A successful event takes planning, organization, timing, and follow-up. Use this guide for tips on how to produce an effective event.

Brainstorm

Events are most effective when they advance your chapter’s overall strategy; they provide great opportunities to recruit members, raise awareness, educate, promote advocacy, and raise funds or materials for the specific issues your chapter has chosen as a focus. Events can also be effective ways of attracting media attention, influencing policymakers, and promoting dialogue on your issue. Agree on your objectives before planning an event.

  • After agreeing on your objectives, establish SMART goals.  The outcome of your event should be:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable/Ambitious
Relevant
Time-bound (fit to deadlines)

  • Events can lead to direct action aimed at a social or policy change. If you intend to incorporate an action component, establish specific success objectives.

Examples of Success Objectives:

  • Written letter from each chapter member
  • Published letter to the Editor, Op-Ed (or other publicity)
  • Action by Member of Congress (or other elected official)
  • Formation of a coalition

Letters to the Editor

Writing a letter to the editor is a simple but effective way to make your voice heard in the public dialogue about current events and to influence public opinion. Beyond this, policy makers and legislators review their local papers’ letters to the editor to gauge their constituents’ priorities. Letters to the editor should be concise and well-written; state your main assertion in the first few lines of the letter, and be sure to proofread your letter. The letter is more likely to be published if it is written in response to a recent news item, which you should refer to in your letter.  Submission guidelines differ, so be sure to follow the guidelines set by the specific publication you wish to publish your letter. To find out how to submit a LTE for your local paper visit their website. The excitement of seeing your name in print and the ability to influence decision makers’ opinions make writing a letter to the editor well worth your while.

Successful events require resources.

What resources may be in reach? Here are a few possibilities (see Develop Resources [3] for more information):

Within your PHR chapter In your community From PHR
  • Computer, writing, or art skills
  • Media contacts
  • Connections with businesses
  • Commitment to the issue
  • Personal knowledge and/or experiences with the issue
  • Local relevant institutions
  • Local businesses
  • Supportive faculty
  • Nearby NGOs and other organizations
  • PHR Toolkit
  • PHR videos & reports
  • PHR staff
  • Nearby PHR chapters

Build Coalitions/Work With Others

Build power in numbers. Other groups may be happy to work with your chapter on an event and just require a specific ask about how they can help.

  • Coalition partners can help with planning, publicity, and participation.  Be clear on what type of assistance you need.
  • Consider partnering with groups such as: the student council, academic departments, faculty associations, other student organizations from your campus or other schools, community groups and NGO’s.

Assign Tasks

  • Create a timeline with a breakdown of tasks (recruitment, materials, publicity, media, general, etc). Work backwards from the due date of each task to ensure all the components come together in timely fashion.
  • Plan out your volunteer needs.  You will need people to cover the program, recruitment, registration, set-up, folder-stuffing, copying, greeting media, audio-visual set-up, photographer, etc.
  • Delegate responsibilities clearly.  If you have enough volunteers, set up work teams. Make event planning fun and express the importance of each person’s contribution.
  • Check in regularly with your event team to provide support and ensure they meet their goals and timelines.

Build an Audience & Publicize Your Event

  • Set a target number of people you hope will attend the event. Make it an ambitious but reachable goal. Consider whether you are looking for sheer numbers and/or certain people, e.g., health professional students, policymakers, the general public.
  • The law of halves: Consider that you will reach about half of the people you call or email. Of the people you talk to or reach by email, about half of those will express interest, and about half of those people will actually come. This means that if you want 100 people, 200 have to say yes. For 200 to have said yes, you must have reached 400 people, and sent out emails or tried calling about 800.

Consider the Four C’s when recruiting prospective attendees: Connect with people in a friendly way; provide the Context of the event and importance of issue; ask for a Commitment; and Common ground (relate the issue or event to the invitee.)

  • Start wholesale (group emails/mailings), and end up retail (individual emails, calls, and meetings). Nothing beats individual contact!
  • Recruit others to recruit for you. Utilize links from other websites and include event notices in others’ newsletters and emails.
  • Publicize your event widely!

Consider: fliers, listservs, tabling, announcements in class, Facebook & Myspace, banners in public spaces, letters to the editor of school paper, announcements in publications, Evite.com, presentations at club meetings, advertising on T-shirts, public service announcements on your local radio station, and asking faculty to announce your event during class.

Media/Publicity

  • Prepare a news advisory to be released ahead of the event and a news release for the day of event (see media training for how to write and distribute these and then do follow up pitch calls).
  • Utilizing strong visuals will increase chances of getting media coverage and will provide a visual record of your event.
  • Consider preparing and distributing a press kit (see PHR online advocacy toolkit).
  • Contact PHR [2] if you need help getting media attention, and send PHR any media coverage you receive.
  • See the guides on Publicizing your Event [1] and Working with the Media to Raise Awareness [4] for more information.

Reserving Sites and Preparing Materials

  • Reserve a venue well in advance; try to find a good fit for your event (parking and/or public transportation, price, size, neighborhood, convenience).
  • Ask everyone presenting at the event what they need ahead of time (slide or LCD projector, etc).
  • Be sure the message and appearance of any materials reflect your objectives and are appropriate for your audience. (Very important: contact PHR [5] regarding guidelines for using the PHR logo before producing materials!) Give yourself enough time for design, printing, distribution, and transporting materials to the venue prior to the event. Do a separate plan/timeline just for materials.
  • Have a sign-in sheet [7] (pdf) to collect names and contacts of the attendees. Send a copy to PHR [6].

Evaluate & Celebrate

  • In a following meeting, have an open Q & A to evaluate the event [What went well?  What would you change for the next event?]
  • Update contact information.
  • Have a post-event celebration with the event team and volunteers.
  • Send thank-you cards to all people involved in the event.
  • Report your event to PHR [8]. Send pictures and summary paragraph for possible use on the PHR student website.

A successful event takes planning, organization, timing, and follow-up. Use this guide for tips on how to produce an effective event. Brainstorm Events are most effective when they advance your chapter’s overall strategy; they provide great opportunities to recruit members, raise … Continue reading

Student Chapter Toolkit

[1]

Educational Events

Education is fundamental to advocacy.  Before members of your community act, they must first be made aware of human rights violations.  To raise awareness, options include hosting a speaker or a panel, a film screening, or a conference.  Be aware of the advantages of collaboration. Educational events are also a great way to recruit new members and spread the work about your chapter.

Speakers and Panels

Use faculty at your institution or local experts to put together a panel on an issue of importance (e.g. Health/Human rights, HIV/AIDS). Once you have decided on the issue of the panel, enlist speakers to discuss different aspects of the issue. Find a venue at your institution or somewhere locally. Hold a Q&A session after the speakers have finished, so that the audience can ask questions. If needed, draft a series of questions to ask the speakers during the session. Advertise for the event via flyers, internet (facebook, myspace, e-mail), and newspapers. Contact appropriate local human rights organizations to help advertise and sponsor the event.

A presentation by an informed and dynamic speaker is an effective way of motivating students, faculty and the community to become engaged in human rights.  Finding an expert on your issue to address a group is not as hard as you think. There are several sources:

You can find speakers on specific issues by researching relevant organizations, your school’s academic departments, other schools, hospitals, health professional organizations and Google.  An internet search will also turn up a number of speakers’ bureaus, but they tend to represent speakers who command large fees.  For the budget-conscious, look into NGOs and websites dedicated to your specific issue.  PHR can provide useful recommendations as well.

When looking for a speaker, keep the issue paramount:  the most effective presentations feature speakers who are credible on the issue and convey genuine passion and commitment.

  • Before choosing a speaker, film, or presentation topic, set clear goals for your event.
  • When researching a speaker, find out what costs are involved.  Some speakers require an honorarium; others may waive their fee but require that travel and other out-of-pocket costs be covered.  Other may donate their time and cover their own expenses. Be sure that you understand clearly what costs you will need to cover. If your chapter has inadequate funds, plan to raise funds or approach the student activities office or academic departments for sponsorship.
  • Invite your speaker well in advance of your event, at least two months. That way, if your first choice is not available, you’ll have time to find someone else.  Nevertheless, if you must plan your event quickly, it never hurts to ask — your speaker may be available on short notice.
  • Ask about your school’s policy on speakers. Some schools require permits, signatures from the administration, or another form of approval of individual speakers.
  • Create a program flow for the event with set times, roles for event organizers, and time at the end for attendees to take action.  Assign a host or contact person for your speaker(s).
  • Prepare a written introduction on the speaker(s) and the issue and ask the speaker(s) to approve it.
  • Coordinate travel for your speaker(s). Build in extra time in case of travel delays or emergency. If your speaker is not familiar with your campus, provide a map with information about parking, and hang a sign on the door of the building. Ask your speaker to arrive with sufficient time to get settled before the event begins. You are the host: introduce your speaker to the organizers, relevant faculty or advisors, and any other presenters.
  • You may be able to set up meetings between your speaker and smaller groups before or after your event, e.g., with policymakers or faculty.
  • Start publicizing in school and community newspapers, online, etc, two to three weeks in advance and plan for a “publicity blitz” in the five days leading up to the event.
  • Invite the media. Contact reporters and editors, issue a press release; arrange interviews or a press conference if appropriate.
  • Videotape or audiotape the event.  Be sure to get permission from the speaker to use the tape.  It can be a great educational and advocacy tool, and is a good way of documenting your chapter activities.

Film Screenings

Screening a film is a great way to attract a range of people, demonstrate how relevant human rights are to many situations, and help develop awareness of or sympathy for an issue. Choose an interesting topic – for example, asylum and detention, access to health care, HIV/AIDS, clean water, infectious diseases, or a historical or political situation. To find a film that addresses that issue, consult the suggested film list <<link to list of films>>. Choose the number of films that you want to run, and have a film series. Have a weekend film festival, or spread out the films by showing one film at the same time each day for a week, or each week for several weeks. Enlist members of your chapter to help by finding films/documentaries to show, getting the rights to the film if needed, advertising for the event via flyers, posters, the internet (facebook, personal e-mail invitations or listservs), newspapers, and local organizations. Invite fellow classmates, faculty, and local community members. Collect donations or raise money for a cause or organization.

On the day of the screening, give a brief introduction to the documentary and the issues covered. Another option is to collect donations for the cause/theme of the screening.

Symposium or Conference

Host a symposium or conference at your institution on an issue of importance (Global Health Disparities, Access to Medications, HIV/AIDS). Find a venue for the conference at your institution (and be sure to have the appropriate number of rooms for sessions). Choose a keynote speaker, and enlist members of your chapter or outside experts to run workshops and lectures. Advertise for the conference via flyers, internet, and newspapers. Send invitations to your local community, local organizations, and colleges and universities in your region.

Health and Human Rights Education

Want to change the way your school teaches medicine and public health? Want to educate your entire class–and all the classes that come after you? Be a part of PHR’s Health and Human Rights Education Program (HHRE), and start a new course, elective or lecture series at your institution. Check out our HHRE toolkit here [1]for all you need to create lasting curriculum on human rights and health. PHR has HHRE mentors who can also help you plan and strategize: contact Hope at hobrien@phrusa.org to be connected.

Other Ideas for Education and Engagement

PHR student chapters have always been very creative in identifying opportunities for education. Chapters have held arts shows, talent shows, walks, made AIDS quilts, and more. We encourage you to find new and different ways of mobilizing your campus–let us know about your original efforts and we may feature them in this toolkit!

The Advantages of Collaboration

Collaboration increases the potential to create change by expanding your reach and leveraging resources.  Collaboration can range from co-sponsoring one event with one or more other groups, to forming a coalition to work on a long-term campaign.  Simply put: The more committed individuals and groups you can involve in your campaign efforts, the bigger impact you can make.

  • Widen your reach: Build your attendance at events; increase the number of people willing to take action.
  • Brainstorm: Take advantage of different perspectives- they can lead to a more comprehensive approach to an issue
  • Build credibility: Different communities coming together on an issue can enhance credibility with a wider audience
  • Share resources: Pool your resources and connections to make a greater impact
  • Create a bigger presence for your group: Demonstrate to chapter members and potential members that they are a part of a larger movement

Examples of Collaboration in Action:

  • The recent national Day of Action is a great example of collaboration in action.  Several PHR chapters worked together with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines chapters to urge local politicians to support a bill that would require all medicines from universities to be accessible to developing countries.
  • Student chapters partnered with their human rights advocacy chapters, Student Global AIDS Campaign chapters, and other campus groups to take action during World AIDS Day.
  • Physicians for Human Rights has worked in the past with Student Global AIDS Campaign, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, the Global Health Council, and the International Federation of Medical Students Association, among others.  You might want to contact these and other like-minded organizations to find out if there are chapters or members on your campus or in your local community.

Education is fundamental to advocacy.  Before members of your community act, they must first be made aware of human rights violations.  To raise awareness, options include hosting a speaker or a panel, a film screening, or a conference.  Be aware … Continue reading

Advocacy: Demanding Change

Throughout the year, both during National Actions and at other strategic times, you will have opportunities to help pass important legislation and influence policy. Here are a few advocacy tactics your Chapter can use – either individually or together.

Power Mapping

Be strategic when selecting the target of your advocacy.  You may want to provoke legislative change, demand corporate social responsibility, or shift public opinion.  This power mapping process will help you decide.

As your student chapter plans advocacy initiatives—and as you build your own capacity as an advocate—it is critical to analyze the power structures involved in the policies and processes you are advocating for or against. This kind of analysis will ensure your action is as effective as possible in both moving policy and in moving people:

  • Who has the power to make the change you want, and is most vulnerable to the kinds of pressure you can mount?
  • Who are your allies? Who could be your active supporters?
  • Who will actively oppose you?
  • How can we reach the people in power?

One process tool for this is called power mapping. Power mapping allows advocacy groups to systematically lay out power dynamics across your campaign so you can focus in on your main target—the one who can make the change you want to see—while also illuminating other potential connections and recognizing opposition so you can minimize it. Power mapping is used by organizations across the globe to: forge alliances; build support; do the most targeted actions; be politically relevant and strategic; and build awareness and legitimacy of your group.

Step One: Setting the Stage

To begin the process of power mapping, identify all of the stakeholders and actors involved in your particular issue. One helpful matrix to do this mapping is the power mapping table included below—it helps you map out your campaign allies, beneficiaries, opponents, decision makers, and those who influence the decision makers—all key power relationships to win a campaign.

  • Allies: People who are “on your side” either because they will benefit directly or because they share the same objectives and want to help bring about these changes as part of a broader movement. These are the people and groups who are already active on your issue or those you want to enlist and you think you can get on board. Ask yourself: who can you bring into this campaign as stakeholders and supporters?
  • Beneficiaries: People whose lives will be improved by the successful achievement of your advocacy goals. They can also be called “allies” but without additional organizing, a beneficiary is often a more passive stakeholder than an ally.
  • Opponents: People who are opposed to what you’re trying to do and are likely to actively oppose you. Some of these people could become allies in time, with greater understanding of the issues, or could be standing in the way of what you’re trying to do. Adversaries can become targets of your advocacy project if you are planning a series of activities to “win them around.” Also, it is useful to not allow your campaign to get distracted by passive opponents—those who will not actively oppose you, or who do not have the ear of your targets. Ask yourself: how can you ensure the opposition stays at least neutral—and that your actions do not necessarily inflame them to put opposing pressure on policy makers? Can you make any opponents into allies with specific outreach strategies?
  • Decision Makers: Those with the authority or power to make the desired change. Look at your list of decision makers and compare it to your objective and the policy/budget you are trying to change, and find the targets you have the greatest number of routes to reach. Ask yourself: are they vulnerable to influence? Accessible or accountable to your constituency or allies?
  • Influencers: Those who through their position, relationship, knowledge, or status are able to influence those with the power of decision making, or the direction of policy changes. Ask yourself: who do you know who has the ear of your target? How can you influence them to move the target towards your position?

Step Two: Identifying Targets

Now that you have mapped out the overall power dynamics in your campaign, it is time to focus on mapping out your targets. A “target” is the person who has the power to give you what your group wants in your campaign. A target is a person, not a faceless institution. Your constituency can easily imagine and express power over a person—but how can anyone have power over “the government” or “the International Monetary Fund”? In addition, individual decision makers have more incentive to respond to actions targeted at them directly, versus at a committee, or a larger government body—their names and their position are on the line, so they are more likely to respond.

There are two kinds of targets: primary targets and secondary targets. The primary target is the person or institution with the ultimate power. This may include Senators and Congressmen, Medical School Deans, local elected officials, or others who hold the power to make the change you want to see.

Secondary targets are people who can influence your primary target. The opinions and actions of these “influencers” are important in achieving the advocacy objective in so far as they affect the opinions and actions of the decision makers. Some members of a primary audience can also be a secondary audience if they can influence other decision makers. For example, the President and the Secretary of State might influence one another’s opinions. Therefore, they are both a primary audience (“targets”) and a secondary audience (“influencers”). In addition, your secondary audience may contain oppositional forces to your objective. If so, it is extremely important to include these groups on your list, learn about them, and address them as part of your strategy.

Some secondary targets may include:
  • Relatives
  • Leaders of target’s party
  • Business associates of the target
  • Personal Assistants or staff
  • Formal/informal advisors to the target
  • National opinion leaders
A special note on targets

What does it mean to say target? The term “target” does NOT always imply that we are attacking them—but that they are the decision makers who are key and around whom you should focus your efforts. Advocacy can often be most effective when you approach your targets as colleagues versus adversaries: you are still targeting them and their power, but in a collaborative light. Or, to make change, you may have to use more aggressive tactics towards your target—either way, the target is the person who has the power to give you what you want, and it may or may not be strategic to treat them as an adversary.

You can have more than one target for a campaign, although in general, fewer are better and allow you to be more focused. There will often be a progression of targets on the way to victory in a complex campaign. If a “primary target” is determined too hard to reach, but critical for your issue, you can make your secondary target your main target—so if you can’t reach, say, the President, but you know he listens to a certain cabinet member, target that person primarily to reach the President.

Power mapping is an art, not a science. And things change. So think about the criteria listed in this power-mapping worksheet [1], but know they can be flexible. Targets totally depend on your objective, so targets in one campaign might be allies in another. Be flexible and ready to shift your targets and allies as the situation changes.

NSP National Actions

Three times a year, the PHR National Student Program leads a nationwide advocacy event known as a National Action. National Actions are opportunities for coordinated action on one of PHR’s key campaigns. National Actions generally seek to change U.S. policy to address an urgent human rights concern. Chapters that choose to participate are part of a coordinated nationwide advocacy effort that magnify the voice of health professional students and help change the health and human rights landscape.

Previous National Actions have introduced advocacy in tandem with an internationally observed day, like World AIDS Day and Human Rights Day.  The Global Health Week of Action is linked to World Health Day.

Current or upcoming National Actions:

2011 Global Health Week of Action – May 1-7, 2011

Engage Your Congressional Representatives

Extend the fight for health and human rights by speaking with your congressperson.  Call your congressperson’s office to set up an appointment. When scheduling a meeting, underline the magnitude of your issue(s), and say that it is important to you (and your officer team) as future health professionals.You can achieve a number of goals through interacting with your representatives:  you will be letting the policymaker know that his or her constituency cares about the issue at hand; you can educate the policymaker about the issue and explain why his or her support is important; you may be able to gain a commitment for some specific action, such as voting for a piece of legislation, and you can thank participants for prior support.  Even if you are not successful gaining a commitment, you will have established a dialogue, raised awareness, and set the stage for follow-up communication.

To identify your local and state representatives, go to USA.gov’s website. [2]

Letters to Congress

A letter-writing campaign can be a great way to urge your representatives or senators to back a major legislative issue or champion a cause crucial to health and human rights. Gather your chapter members, as well as faculty, classmates, and local community members, to write letters on a given issue. Bring sample letters for everyone to replicate or use as a draft. Then, send the letters out to your representative or senator. Follow-up the letter writing campaign with a phone call to your representative’s or senators’ offices.

Petitions and postcard campaigns demonstrate to your representatives, university president, or other official that there is substantial agreement in your PHR chapter, campus, or larger community on an issue. Collect signatures on issues ranging from implementing HHRE on campus to health care issues in Congress, and submit them with a cover letter explaining your position. If you collect signatures for a PHR campaign, mail them to the National Student Program Coordinator.

To learn about the process by which a bill becomes a law, see this chart [3] or view this highly educational film [4].

District Meetings

Schedule a meeting with your local representatives and senators by calling their national or district office and speaking with the scheduler. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Member of Congress’s office. Allow sufficient lead time when calling for an appointment. The more advance notice the office has, the more likely that a representative will attend.  Try to schedule your visit to coincide with a milestone: a report that has just been released, recent media coverage of an issue, a bill that is being deliberated, etc. Don’t bring a large group—three or four people should suffice.  Be sure your group includes people from the legislator’s district, are from constituencies the member cares about (religious or civil groups, for example), and are articulate and confident. Practice what you will say beforehand, and keep your presentations brief and to the point.

Town Halls

An informal public event with the community, where attendees can voice their opinion and ask questions of their elected officials. Ask your representatives if they would be willing to meet with members of the community regarding a topical issue. This is also an excellent format in which to hear the viewpoints of community members without a representative present, and a way to form coalitions and decide on further action.

House Parties

Many house parties are organized around televised debates during election season. Alternatively, some representatives are too busy to meet in person, but would be willing to have a call-in meeting with a group of constituents. House parties are also excellent vehicles when lobbying for a local or regional candidate, who may be willing to come speak to those assembled.

After any interaction with a representative, write a thank you note to all meeting attendees and send them follow-up materials from PHR to respond to any questions that came up during the meeting. If the policymaker was unsupportive or noncommittal, ask constituents to write letters on the issue; if the member is supportive, urge constituents to send thank you notes.

Hosting Call-In Events

Organizing a Call-In Day can be a very effective way to advocate to policy makers and to engage your campus. Congressional staffers keep track of who calls in to their offices every day, and what issues are on their mind. Make sure your issue rises to the top by getting 20, 50, or hundreds of your classmates to call your Senators’ or Congressperson’s office in one day.

Organizing a Call-In Day is easy.  First, create materials about your issue. You’ll need a call-in script for people to follow, so they have the facts right there in front of them. These scripts should be short, just a few sentences–calls to offices usually last less than 2 minutes, so the script should be concise and powerful. You may also want to prepare a one page fact sheet. A fact sheet will teach potential callers more about your issue, and why they should care—and what impact their action can have on health and human rights. Finally, you need the phone number to the office–DOUBLE CHECK to make sure it works before you move forward.

Once you have the phone number, script and facts, its time to plan an outreach strategy. Got an active email list? Send out an elert. For more immediate impact, set up a table in a busy area of campus, and ask everyone to pull out their cell phones and make a call. Have PHR chapter members make the same ask in every class they are in on the call-in day–this will generate many calls. Work with other groups: reach out to AMSA or other campus groups and see if they want to join the call in day. Blog about it. Be creative—there are many ways to publicize a call-in day to ensure maximum exposure and impact.

Follow-up is important too. Within a few days of the call-in day, make official contact with your target policy maker’s office. See if they want or need more information. You will be on their radar screen—offer yourself as a resource and help make sure your issue remains at the top of their list!

Throughout the year, both during National Actions and at other strategic times, you will have opportunities to help pass important legislation and influence policy. Here are a few advocacy tactics your Chapter can use – either individually or together. Power … Continue reading

Addressing Health Disparities in MA

H.1517 and the Office of Health Equity

Background/Bill Info

In January 2011, State Representatives Jeffrey Sanchez and Byron Rushing introduced bill H.1517 to the General Court of Massachusetts. Bill H.1517 would establish an Office of Health Equity in the Office of Health and Human Services. The bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health in February 2011.

Functions of the Office of Health Equity

The proposed Office of Health Equity (OHE) would deal with the many issues that impact health outcomes and cause health disparities by1:

  • coordinating and monitoring Department of Public Health (DPH) activities regarding disease prevention, health promotion, service delivery, and research concerning racial and ethnic minority populations
  • participating in decision making and policy development regarding priority areas for the DPH
  • providing assistance to the DPH and the community on data about the health status of racial/ethnic minority populations
  • serving as an active link between the DPH and racial/ethnic minority communities

Why is an Office of Health Equity Necessary?

To make gains that are both substantive and sustainable toward the elimination of health disparities will require political will and coordinated oversight, which the Office of Health Equity is uniquely positioned to provide. The proposed OHE would create a permanent place in state government to spearhead efforts to eliminate health disparities in the Commonwealth. The OHE would fill an important and currently unfulfilled role in coordinating statewide efforts and evaluating state progress in eliminating health disparities to improve public health statewide.

Advocacy Opportunity: Tell your Rep. to Address Health Disparities in MA

Your Representative needs to hear from you! Visit the Student Chapter Toolkit’s Advocacy page [1] for more information about how to:

  • Call your representative
  • Write a letter
  • Attend a district meeting or public hearing

As a health professional student, your support is essential in the effort to eliminate health disparities. Make sure your voice is heard!

1www.mass.gov/officeofhealthequity/functions [2]

H.1517 and the Office of Health Equity Background/Bill Info In January 2011, State Representatives Jeffrey Sanchez and Byron Rushing introduced bill H.1517 to the General Court of Massachusetts. Bill H.1517 would establish an Office of Health Equity in the Office … Continue reading