Friday, March 11, 2011
Guest Commentary: JSPH Students Head to Washington, DC
Rob Simmons, DrPH, MPH, MCHES, CPH
Clinical Associate Professor
Program Director, MPH Program
Jefferson School of Population Health
The 14th Annual Health Education Summit, sponsored by the National Coalition of Health Education Organizations, and representing approximately 35,000 public health professionals and students was held March 5-7 in Washington DC. Two hundred and thirty (230) public health professionals and students participated in this 2 ½ day learning and advocacy experience, which culminated in Capitol Hill visits with Health Legislative Aides of Senate and House members. This experiential learning opportunity was part of our core Public Health Policy and Advocacy course and 17 JSPH public health students and three faculty members participated in the summit.
Over the first day and a half, summit participants received intensive training in advocacy principles and methods, using a variety of communication vehicles (including social networking). The Coalition advocacy priorities for the 2011 summit were:
• Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, with particular emphasis on the Prevention and Public Health Fund that provides the resources to implement the various component of the Act.
• CDC Funding, with a focus on the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The CDC – and specifically this Center – is being targeted for significant funding cuts by the House of Representatives that would limit programs that prevent chronic disease and promote health.
• Support for Senate Bill 392, the ‘Promoting Health as Youth Skills In Classrooms And Life Act’ (Udall, NM), which would codify health education and physical education as core subjects in the K-12 curriculum. Health education and physical education are practically non-existent in schools today (only 6 states require daily physical education). With our obesity crisis, we need to expand our focus on school-based health and physical education.
The highlight of our learning came on March 7 when we went to Capitol Hill to meet with Health Legislative Aides of our Senators and Representatives (Congress was not in session that day). Participants met in small groups and held over 100 meetings with legislative aides about the three key public health priorities. Our public health students played a key role in those visits as many took the lead for educating the legislative aide of their representative.
Student reaction to the advocacy summit has been very positive as it was the first time “on the hill” for our students. We hope and expect that it was an experience they will never forget and that they will be motivated to become strong public health advocates and leaders throughout their career. Our students will be presenting on their federal advocacy experience in class next week and we look forward to sharing their experience on this blog in the future.