As Dialogue4Health gears up for a new web forum series on Improving Population Health, with our friends at the American Public Health Association (APHA), Prevention Institute, Public Health Institute, and Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), we are also taking a moment to reflect on past web forums organized by these champions of prevention. A look back at the March 19 web forum, Advancing Prevention and Population Health: New Year, New Efforts, New Opportunities, is particularly timely given TFAH and APHA’s recent calls to action to protect the Prevention and Public Health Fund

On Tuesday 9/29 and Wednesday 9/30, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will consider and markup a budget reconciliation bill that would repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, and also defund Planned Parenthood for one year.

Multiple speakers on the March 19 web forum emphasized the importance of building relationships with policymakers, and stressed the effectiveness of sharing stories about the impact that policy has in communities. Those are the stories that bring policy to life for policymakers, through the faces of neighbors, schoolteachers, and business owners. Chris Tholkes, Assistant Division Director of the Office of Statewide Health Initiatives at the Minnesota Department of Public Health shared a detailed strategy for how to engage policymakers to start building relationships and share stories about prevention and community health. Tholkes explained the important role that public health professionals have in providing their expertise, while also detailing how to stay in an educational rather than advocacy role. 

Karen Seaver Hill, Director of Child Advocacy for the Children’s Hospital Association, talked about the culture shift in Children’s Hospitals, from an “Illness Model” of sick-care to a values-based “Wellness Model.” While acknowledging that hospitals have needed to learn a new language in engaging with community on population health, she also pointed to the legacy that Children’s Hospitals have as philanthropic institutions rooted in social activism. Seaver Hill quoted the first Pediatric Chair of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 1926 stating:

Unless a hospital is interested in the prevention as well as the cure of a disease, we have, all of us, failed to function to its fullest extent.

The cross-sector nature of prevention and public health work does mean that we may have to learn each other’s languages, but it also means that we can be more impactful in the work that we do, and in the stories that we tell – with a diverse range of partners speaking to a diverse range of policymakers.

TFAH and APHA are asking you to tell your stories in defense of the Prevention and Public Health Fund today. Start today or continue to build relationships so that your expertise in public health is informing the policy decisions that impact your community. As Tholkes said: “If you don’t shape the dialogue, somebody else will.”

Click here for a copy of the federal legislative calendar, so that you can anticipate when legislators are home on recess and invite them to see your project in action. Or schedule a time to visit with your elected officials or their staff at the Capitol when you’re in DC. Tune into the web forum recording for more detailed strategies from the expert panel. Register for the upcoming series to learn more about cross-sector collaboration to advance population health.

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