I’ve been involved in politics long enough for opportunities to speak with local, state and federal elected officials and candidates to become fairly old hat and routine. The politicians are familiar old friends and we talk about topics we’ve covered time and time again. Of course, when you are talking with a politician, it is almost always about them, their campaigns, the bills they’re working on, their interests, and if they are any good, at least a little bit about their constituents. It is all very legislator-centered and I was pretty well prepared for CHC’s legislative reception yesterday.
I got there early to help other folks get the room set up. Posters had to be put in just the right places, chairs moved around and other logistics; again, pretty normal stuff. Later, I wandered around the capitol a little bit. I saw old friends who were lobbyists, members of the press and legislative aides. I chatted a little, caught up on the gossip, and made sure that legislators would show up for our reception.
We had some really good cupcakes and so the word got out that CHC’s reception was the place to go for a quick mid afternoon snack. A lot of legislators showed up and had a lot of the typical discussions.
Yet CHC is a different sort of place. We were recently recognized as a patient centered medical home and it got me thinking, what would a patient centered legislative reception really be like? Instead of a politician talking with a lobbyist about what might be best for a patient, you would have a team of people working together, looking at the complete picture to find solutions to problems.
In fact, that is what some of the discussions I ended up with some legislators were like. I spoke with legislators who are very focused on education about the importance of school based health centers, and Margaret Flinter related the story of a student who had their first teeth cleaning at one such school based health center and decided to go on and become a dental hygienist. I had a discussion about wellness with a legislator along with Miss Kim from Recess Rocks, our national program to encourage fitness in schools.
Later on, I ended up in a discussion about the importance of registering patients to vote. The National Association of Community Health Centers frequently encourages people to contact their legislators about important health care issues and especially encourages health centers to register patients to vote.
There is something empowering about being registered to vote. There is a certain dignity and respect that people who are actually registered and get out and vote receive from elected officials. Empowering patients and treating them with dignity and respect is an important of how we believe patients should be treated. While I don’t know off hand of any studies relating the respect we show patients to health outcomes, I was very interested to find an article, Social Capital and Health: Civic Engagement, Community Size, and Recall of Health Messages. The research found that “A higher level of civic engagement through ties to community groups was associated with better recall of health messages.” I’d love to see more research in this area. I’d also love to see opportunities for our patients to speak with their local, state and federal elected officials and candidates become as comfortable and old hat as it is for many of my friends who have been involved in politics for a long time.
CHC’s Patient Centered Legislative Reception is a good starting point.