Physicians as Advocates

​Physicians as Advocates

​Primary care providers are in an ideal position to advocate for the sexual and reproductive health care needs of adolescents and young adults because they are the ones who are for them. From access to care, to the provision of confidential health care services, there are opportunities at the state and federal levels for physicians to get involved with to ensure that adolescents and young adults receive the care they need to reach optimal health and development.

Resources for Physicians

Physicians as Advocates (Physicians for Reproductive Health): This module provides reasons for physician advocacy for adolescent reproductive health, describes how to effectively use storytelling as a tool for advocacy, and discusses ways physicians can influence public policy.

Opportunities for Physician Involvement

  • Sign up for alerts to stay up-to-date on what’s going on

  • Contact your government officials
    1 phone call represents the voice of 1,000 constituents to your legislator

  • Letters to the editor or op-ed pieces can be effective for raising community awareness on issues.
    Find examples here.

  • Attend the annual AAP Legislative Conference or “Advocacy Days” in Washington D.C. to receive formal training in legislative advocacy with the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill 

  • Become an AAP Key Contact-
    Key Contacts are AAP members who develop an ongoing relationship with their respective federal legislators. 

  • Intern with the AAP:
    The American Academy of Pediatrics Department of Federal Affairs has maintained a successful internship program, which is designed for those interested in learning about child health issues, the legislative process, and public affairs activities. 

  • Learn about the process
    Project Vote Smart includes a Government 101 Web page that is a great resource for medical students to learn about how the government works. Specifically, there is information on how a bill becomes law. 

  • Meet with your Legislator. Here are tips for a successful encounter: 

    • Call the office and ask to speak with the health legislative aid, if possible. Indicate that you are a pediatrician and a member of the AAP and would like to discuss issues related to child health. It is rare to speak with the legislator, however, it is likely that you will be scheduled for a 15-minute appointment with a staffer. 

    • Dress professionally, arrive on time, and bring a business card to exchange. 

    • Select one or two timely issues and indicate what specific action you are requesting of the legislator. It is important not to overwhelm them with too much information, or to discuss too many issues. 

    • Be succinct and clear, and if possible provide specific examples from patients you have cared for. Remember, you are the expert on this issue. Anecdotes are powerful examples that staff will remember and can share with the representative. 

    • Provide a one-page sheet referred to as a “leave-behind” that summarizes the issue with bullet points. The AAP will often provide these for federal issues. 

    • Send a follow-up email or letter thanking them for the chance to discuss your issue, and to reiterate the action you hope the legislator will take. Most importantly, these meetings are an opportunity to build a relationship with the staff of your representative. These relationships are longitudinal and valuable for achieving success in legislative advocacy in the long run. 

  • Help others advocate 

    • “Take Five [Minutes]” table – generate letters, sign up members for a grassroots campaign, win involvement in a community education campaign 

    • Morning Report topic – One example - After a morning report on an abuse case, have letters ready for the residents/faculty to sign addressing key issues like CPS funding 

State and Local Advocacy 

Getting involved in your state’s AAP chapter is a great way to be an advocate at the local level. Each chapter has its own Web site where you can find out the issues they’re interested in and working on, as well as have a voice in issues that are important to you. Contact your chapter president or executive director to find out what’s going on and how you can be supportive and contribute your knowledge and expertise towards advocating for child health issues.

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