By Eli Briggs, Director of Government Affairs, NACCHO
On Dec. 12, 2013, a record number of local health officials went to Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional staff and Members of Congress as an optional part of NACCHO’s Survive and Thrive program for new and aspiring health officials. NACCHO members met with nearly 100 Congressional offices representing 30 states.
This year, it is important that as many NACCHO members as possible educate Congressional staff and Members of Congress about how local health departments improve health and safety with the support of federal programs. While Congress has taken action to reduce expected federal budget cuts for this year, spending levels for non-defense programs still remain at historically low levels; both the FY 2014 and FY 2015 funding levels are well below the FY 2010 funding level, even without adjusting for inflation. In FY 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget was reduced to the lowest level since FY 2003, while health threats and challenges have increased since then.
Some first-time participants in NACCHO Capitol Hill visits reflect on their experiences below:
“I have never had the opportunity to visit any of the elected officials in Kansas or Washington, DC, so this was a brand new experience for me. I worked hard to be prepared prior to arriving in Washington, DC, but I was still very nervous about the meetings. Through the webinars provided by NACCHO prior to the visits, the development of fact sheets and coaching from NACCHO staff, I feel like I learned more than expected.” —Allison Alejos, Director, Local Health Department, Shawnee County
“Working with colleagues from my state to coordinate our public health message to our Senator and meeting one-on-one with Representatives from our respective areas of the state is an experience not all health officers, particularly new health officers, get the opportunity to experience. NACCHO not only coordinated the visits on our behalf but prepared participants throughout the year to boost our confidence and ability to craft and communicate our message. It was an opportunity my colleagues and I will not soon forget and [for which we] are thankful. I hope more health officials will take the opportunity to meet with Members of Congress and their staff at home or in Washington, DC, and tell them about how local health departments are protecting health every day.” —Erin Hess, County Health Officer, Florida Department of Health, Hardee and Okeechobee County
“Working with NACCHO to help coordinate the Capitol Hill visits was a great experience. Supporting the members of CADH [Connecticut Association of Directors of Health] by being with them as they delivered the message of the impact of what they do in the communities that matter to their congressional representatives was very powerful. We even incorporated some intense physical activity by hustling between offices across the Capitol to make sure we delivered a timely message prior to the House members voting to approve the budget resolution.” —Charles Brown, Executive Director, Connecticut Association of Directors of Health
Please e-mail me at email@example.com with any questions or for more information about NACCHO’s advocacy activities.