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 Families and Advocacy

By Carolyn Mullen
Associate Director, Government Affairs, AMCHP

A period of legislative stagnation permeates the air as temperatures rise and approval ratings plummet in Washington, DC. Hundreds of calls, e-mails and meetings were conducted during this period and to no avail. Traditional lobbyists are rubbing swollen feet, nursing bruised egos and raising their collective hands to heaven begging Congress to do something, anything productive. What will push these policymakers to the promised land of compromise? Families and their stories.

"What to cut? What to keep?" is a phrase probably running through the mind of a congressional staffer as he or she begins the arduous task of drafting the annual appropriations bills. These numbers in an excel spreadsheet must tell a story: a story about a family who will lose services if a program is cut, a population that will excel if funding is sustained or the promise of a new program being brought to life and the positive impact it will have. Sure these stories can be told by lobbyists, but policymakers prefer to hear directly from their constituents and the families who benefit from these programs.

In the current budgetary environment members hear only the loudest voices above the fray declaring that Congress must reduce the federal deficit by cutting programs. Most members do not understand how the Title V MCH Services Block Grant affects a child with a special health care needs or helps established regionalized systems of care for the most medically fragile infants. The stories from a constituent’s perspective are vitally important to any advocacy campaign, adding color and life to data and funding levels. The AMCHP family scholars program affords the opportunity for families to learn more about how to be an effective advocate and share this knowledge base with others.

Together we must work to educate ourselves and the next generation of the maternal and child health workforce about the importance and value of advocacy at the national, state and local levels. Without continued leadership and a voice for maternal and child health, the very programs that we cherish will be demolished by members of Congress who are trying to achieve budget savings. Many policymakers do not fully understand the ramifications of their actions and the impact this will have on their constituents. AMCHP staff stands ready to work to give families touched by the Title V MCH Block Grant the tools and resources necessary to advocate on behalf of millions of women, children and their families.