Today I attended the Kansas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (KSAND) Public Policy Workshop (PPW). I want to share my eye opening experience with you all. The PPW was in Topeka, I had an exam this morning and I was very rushed to get there with the 45 minute drive. But public policy is extremely important to me and I think it should resonate to some extent with everyone. Public policy is what makes our world go round. We typically think of policy as something is only influenced by the big wigs in Washington, but I want to emphasize that no matter what you are doing with your life you can make a difference in policy. My only ask is that you are educated on the goals you wish to achieve and look at both sides of the coin when thinking up solutions.
As much as my interest in policy has grown since I first attended a public policy bootcamp on campus back in September of 2015 I was honestly not very excited to attend the first two sessions, they were about insurance. I feel like my excitement levels are self-explanatory. However, they turned out to be very interesting and I learned so much in that hour and a half. The first speaker was the Kansas State Insurance Commissioner, he turned out to be a very compelling speaker, and not just for someone with that title. Because you might not be as interested in the topic as I am I'll bullet some of the highlights.
The second session was also very beneficial to me as a future Registered Dietitian (RD), it covered the ins and outs of billing insurance for your practice. But I won't bore you with the details if you have no ties to dietetics, and if you do I wouldn't to the presentation justice.
To finish the day we focused on advocacy for the dietetics profession. Even if you aren't affiliated with dietetics this next bit will still be benefical if your looking to create a positive change in the world.
Advocacy is one of the biggest reasons I cannot wait to become an RD. It seems like everyone is interested in nutrition information, but we all ask google instead of a qualified professional. How often have you googled your symptoms for a medical problem, and how often have they been accurate when you actually consult a physician? The same goes for nutrition information, you can google the best diet, the best way to lose weight, and a host of other things you might be interested in but how often do you consult a dietitian to determine the accuracy of your search? My guess is not every often because there would be a lot fewer people spreading nutrition MISINFORMATION. This is why I'm interested in advocacy.
My career goals include working in public policy on a national and a global scale but there is no need to overlook the power of a grassroots movement. In fact, I believe that this is one of the most beneficial ways to make a change, but so many people look at the work it will take and turn away. Many people also believe that a movement has to start at a national level for it to have an impact, but in reality the opposite is generally true.
Before I get to carried away, lets cover what grassroots advocacy is, because it has nothing to do with your lawn. As implied above, grassroots advocacy is something you start in your own community. It's all about finding a way to make a change that works for the people around you. It takes a person who sees a problem and proceeds to make a change. Grassroots advocacy was only covered breifly at our workshop but it's importance should not be overlooked.
Now let's talk about large scale advocacy. This usually involves talking to either your legislature or your congressmen. The best way to get your point across is to be concise. Political figures have a lot on their plate and every second counts, so you'll want to write down your main point that if all else fails you want them to leave knowing. Then put together either 3 or 4 supporting points that all relate to your main point. This way, no matter what you are talking about you can relate it back to your focus. Then you need to find something that is going to create an emotional response, this can either be a personal story, the story of someone you're close with, or you can bring someone who can share their personal story. Never forget to bring the numbers. Asking for a change just because it's your opinion isn't very convincing. Find some stats, write them down if you have to and maybe even leave them with your representative. Along with the numbers, come up with a solution for the problem you've identified. It doesn't hvae to be perfect but like I said, they don't have a lot of extra time so help them out and do some of the leg work. Bottomline, give them something to work with. By putting all of this together your odds of impacting your legislature or congressman increase drastically.
Now not all of us have time to speak directly to our reps but when I was at FNCE, a national confernece for dietietic professionals, I learned a few alternative ways to get your voice heard.
U T I L I Z E S O C I A L M E D I A :
- Friend your representatives on face book and follow them on twitter.
- Politely share your thoughts and opinions on what you would like to see them do.
- Be consistent.
- Take the time to hand write a letter (keep this to a state level though, the amount of time it takes to screen a letter in D.C. is ridiculous!)
D O Y O U R H O M E W O R K :
- Research the person you want to connect with, theres no point in taking them your story if that's something they are already working toward.
- If so, ask what you can do to help the cause.
- Get to know their staff, if you meet with them take the time to befriend a staff member. After all, they are the ones who do the briefing.
G E T I N V O L V E D :
- Attend town halls. Use what you learn to make your case stronger
- Get connected to your cause. Everyone can have an opinion but the people in charge want to listen to the experts.
- Attend any other events that can improve your network
Regardless of if you want to get involved, it's important to understand the process. All to often we criticize those who are trying when we are sitting at home with no idea what they are actually doing. Advocate for what's important to you. Make a difference.
I know public policy isn't everyones jam, but its how you make a difference on any scale.