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The Three Es of E-Advocacy

Friday, December 16, 2011

As the year comes to a close, here at the Partnership, we’re already looking to 2012, and planning our communications and advocacy activities.  As I’m trying to chart out the year ahead, I find myself reflecting upon our communication and advocacy efforts this past year.  What are my lessons learned? What advice would I give to others?  I then think back to the social media panel I participated in at NACHC’s Financial, Operations, Management, and Information Technology Conference in November.   A few weeks ago, I gave a recap on the panel, and summarized the great advice my fellow community health center advocates shared for successful social media campaigns.  I’m taking all of their suggestions to heart, as one of my resolutions is to be more active with my “e-advocacy.”

When I joined Community Health Partnership last year, I did a lot of thinking about my new responsibility as the Health Policy Specialist for our organization.  Walking in, I inherited a department that hadn’t been staffed in awhile, a Facebook account with sporadic posts and a mysterious Twitter account with 2 tweets and 3 followers.  While it felt exciting to start anew, I wanted to be thoughtful in my approach.  Does it make sense for a health center consortium organization to be on social media? 

I talked this issue through with my CEO and colleagues, and came to the following conclusion.  Considering that advocacy is a cornerstone of Community Health Partnership’s mission, and that communication is a vital component of advocacy, it’s important to have a presence where people communicate and share information…on social media. 

Communicate and share information…with whom?  “Who is your audience?” I could hear one of my Communication Studies professors say.  My co-panelist, Micah Clemens Assistant Director of Communications at NACHC pointed out that there are now approximately 800 million people on Facebook, and half of them log in every day.  There are 175 million accounts on Twitter.  I would venture to guess that at least a handful of those folks (maybe people you know?) are people who care about access to affordable health care.  Perhaps another handful work or have worked at a free clinic or community health center.  And maybe, just maybe, those two handfuls have other handfuls of friends who are willing to listen.  Your communication, your message on social media has the potential to spread and grow in scale. 

But when you’re starting out, “who is your audience”?  My other co-panelist Aldon Hynes, Social Media Manager for Community Health Center, Inc. in Connecticut would answer: “anyone who will read, listen, and share your message.”  It’s as simple as that.  There are a few guidelines in starting out and crafting your messages, of course.  However, I think it’s important not to get too hung up on this matter.  In this political climate, anyone willing to read, listen, and share a message is an audience member I will gladly welcome!  The more folks are educated about health access issues and community health centers, the more likely they are to take action. 

So, what are my lessons learned?  What advice would I give to others?  Well, I would take a cue from my colleague Pedro Toledo, Director of Community and Government Affairs at Redwood Community Health Coalition and offer that it’s important to have a good social media policy in place for yourself and staff.  Having agreed upon boundaries is important when dealing with such a dynamic communication tool.  Think of it as like establishing “ground rules” at the beginning of a retreat or meeting.  NACHC has a great template online and the Mayo Clinic has an incredibly helpful website devoted to social media in health care settings.

I’ve also learned that our most effective messages have incorporated the “3 Es of E-Advocacy.”  The three Es are: education, empowerment, and engagement.  It’s not always possible to include all three Es in every message, but I find our messages on Facebook and Twitter are shared and “liked” more often when I think about the 3Es.  With each post, I try to consider: how does this update educate our audience about the Partnership’s advocacy issues?  Does this message empower folks to act?  Is this piece of communication engaging, inviting community response? 

It’s difficult to be perfect 100% of the time with one’s communication efforts, but I would like to believe that it’s more important to be present and out there with your message than remaining silent.  The work that we do as health advocates is too important.

What are your tips for “e-advocacy”?  Please feel free to share…I would love to hear from you!

Rethinking the Role of Social Media in FQHCs

Friday, November 18, 2011

This week, I attended NACHC’s  Financial, Operations Management, Information Technology Conference  to speak at a social media panel titled “Rethinking the Role of Social Media in FQHCs (Federally Qualified Health Centers).”  The panel was initiated by Aldon Hynes, Social Media Manager for CHC, Inc., an FQHC in Connecticut, and the speakers included Aldon, myself, Pedro Toledo, Director of Community and Government Affairs at the Redwood Community Health Coalition, and Micah Clemens, Assistant Director of Communications at NACHC.  As speakers, our goal was to share best practices with health centers about developing good social media campaigns.  I learned quite a lot from my fellow panelists. 

As the Social Media Manager for Community Health Center, Inc. in Connecticut, Aldon’s advice was to have clear goals that are tied to your organization’s mission, know your audience, and to develop a strong narrative that includes getting your staff and providers involved. 

Pedro shared Redwood Community Health Coalition’s  success on Twitter.  He found Twitter to be a valuable tool for not only sharing professional news and information, but also for reaching out to the media and government officials.  Though being on social media is a great way to get your health center’s message out, he stressed the importance of having social media policies in place for staff, so they have clear guidelines about what’s appropriate.

Micah from NACHC stressed the importance of having a presence on Facebook.  He pointed out that there are now approximately 800 million people on Facebook, and half of them log in every day.  Considering that each user has an average of 130 friends, getting a user to share your health center’s message scales considerably. 

This is all great advice.  Next week, I’ll go into more detail about what we talked about, and my presentation.  If you’re curious to hear more before then, you can check out the conference tweets by going to Twitter and searching #CHCFOM.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren: Community Health Advocate

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Last week, Community Health Partnership with one of our member health centers Gardner Family Health Network  presented Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren with the National Association of Community Health Centers’ (NACHC) Community Health Advocate Award.  NACHC bestows this recognition upon members of Congress who have shown exceptional leadership in preserving, strengthening, and expanding access to America’s health centers.  For those of us in Santa Clara Valley, it’s no secret that Representative Lofgren is a champion of community health centers. 

Therefore, we thought it would be fitting for us to present her with the award at the site of Gardner’s future clinic, the Gardner Downtown Health Center.  The site holds special significance, as it will bring primary care services back to the downtown San Jose community, since the closing of the neighborhood’s only hospital in 2004.  Thanks to a partnership between Gardner and the County of Santa Clara, the health center will serve 3000 new patients when it opens in early 2012.

Community members, patient advocates, members of the Coalition for a Downtown Hospital, and other elected officials took the awards ceremony as an opportunity to thank the Congresswoman for supporting health centers, opposing cuts to  Medicaid and Medicare, and her commitment to preserving safety net programs.  Thought we would share our photos of the event with you:

Bill ideas, anyone?

Friday, October 28, 2011

A few months ago, I got accepted as a fellow in the Women’s Policy Institute (WPI), a program of the Women’s Foundation of California that is dedicated to training women on how to do public policy work in the backdrop of our state’s capitol, Sacramento.  The training program draws from the “learn by doing” model, placing people in teams to develop and implement a policy advocacy project in an area or issue of interest.  Considering that Community Health Partnership’s mission  is to advocate for affordable and accessible health care for all, participating in the WPI is a golden opportunity to enhance my skills as a health policy specialist.

Last week, I attended my first learning retreat.  Lead by Marj Plumb, Director of the WPI my class of 35 participants  benefitted from a Civics 101 refresher course, policy research trainings, and networking events with policy experts and legislators.  In this class, there are 7 teams that will handle an array of issues affecting women: community health, criminal justice, economic justice, environmental justice, healthy youth development, reproductive justice, and health reform implementation. 

I was excited to meet my mentor Yali Bair and colleagues on the Health Reform Implementation team.  We all hail from different parts of California and work in various advocacy spheres.  So far, we’ve all agreed that the legislative advocacy strategy we would like to pursue is writing a bill.  Though many of us have lead and coordinated advocacy campaigns, we would like to get experience in “starting from the ground up,” writing our own bill and working towards getting it passed.  We spent quite a bit of time last week brushing up on the various provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and researching how we can possibly strengthen its implementation in California.

If you could pass a bill into law, what would it be?  How would you strengthen or change health reform, if you could?  Do you have any suggestions for my team?  Needless to say, we can’t use everyone’s ideas, but we would sure enjoy hearing from you.  Hit us up over here, or email me at  I’ll keep you updated.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this video that used to air with my Saturday morning cartoons.



Why ask Why? QI!

Friday, October 21, 2011

It’s my pleasure to introduce Reena Gadhia, RN, MPH, Community Health Partnership’s Quality Improvement Program Manager as this week’s guest blogger!  Community Health Partnership’s Quality Improvement (QI)  team assists our member health centers and clinics with improving access to specialty care, preparing them for Patient Centered Medical Home accreditation, as well as providing other types of assistance and training.  Our Quality Improvement activities are an essential component for realizing our mission.  In partnership with our member health centers, we are able to build upon successful practices and streamline systems.  This critical work improves health care delivery and cost, thereby affirming our commitment to advocating for affordable, accessible, and patient centered care for all.

Hi everyone! I am excited to guest blog for Grace-Sonia today, who is away at the prestigious Women’s Policy Institute this week! My role at Community Health Partnership is as the Quality Improvement Program Manager.  This means that I work with our member health centers’ Quality Improvement clinic staff and managers to collect and examine data on clinical and process measures, facilitate learning and workgroup opportunities, and identify upcoming training needs.

So, what is Quality Improvement and why is it important? Quality Improvement, or QI, looks at the ‘how’ behind the ‘what’ and tries to make ‘what’ we do better.

At Community Health Partnership, we work with our member clinics to identify issues that they are facing in daily workflows, help them implement federal changes, and introduce to them new practices that may help improve their clinic work. We also collaborate with our member clinics to provide them with the resources, tools, and opportunities to make the changes that they would like to see.  This assistance includes trainings, analyses of data, facilitating groups around particularly sticky topics, etc. For example, one project that some of our clinics are involved in aims to ensure that diabetic patients older than age 55 receive standardized tests, medications proven to minimize complications of their condition, and lifestyle education. In QI, we receive data from the clinics on how many people are actually receiving these medications and education, and how their test results look – that is the ‘what’. But to understand deeper, QI takes the data and asks, for example: is there a larger focus on some health education topics and not on others? Why do more people seem to have their diabetes in control than last month? What processes are in place to make sure that these medicines get prescribed and patients receive the necessary health education? These questions, and many others like them, make up the ‘how’ of QI work. Understanding the activities behind the ‘numbers’ directly translates to patient care, as this information tells us where changes need to be made, whether it be in what providers communicate to patients, in who conducts health education (providers, health coaches, medical assistants, etc), in how clinics collect patient information, and on.

Increasingly in recent years, experts have discussed the critical role of QI in ensuring that health care delivery is ‘culturally competent.’ Broadly defined, culturally competent care refers to the ability of a health care provider like a nurse or doctor to not only respect the diversity of values and beliefs of their patients, but also to be aware of their own personal and professional biases and assumptions, and to be willing and able to tailor care so that it aligns with a patient’s personal framework. This is a tall order. It matters a great deal, though, because health care is more than the equally-important diagnoses and, medications: health care is people helping people! If there is limited understanding and connection between patient and provider, medical care is simply not as effective. So how does QI fit into ‘cultural competency’ in health care?

When we want to make big changes, the QI framework helps us to quickly implement small, ‘test’ changes and then assess them to determine if they work (and why, if so) or what to learn and change if they do not. In a field such as culturally competent health care which is still emerging and where there has not been a significant amount of research to tell us what the best practices are, QI is a critically useful tool to identify what will work for our own individual organizations. For those of us in QI, this means that we should give thought to how to assess possible disparities in our work and how to shape possible interventions to address these disparities (trainings, workflow changes, etc).  Questions to begin with include: what population do we serve? How effectively does staff serve the diversity of our population? What are our population’s needs? Are there disparities in the quality of care we provide?

As an organization that is committed to making health care more accessible and more affordable for multicultural communities, the marriage of QI and cultural competency seems especially salient. What are your experiences? How have your organizations addressed this issue?