June 3, 2015, Lansing, MI: Twenty Ecology Center Health Leaders Fellows urged State Senators and Representatives to prioritize public health in current and upcoming policy decisions. The fellows, made up of local health professionals, shared their knowledge about the health impacts of issues related to energy and toxic chemicals with state lawmakers in 27 meetings.
The Ecology Center held a morning-long advocacy training session for the fellows, demonstrating tools for advocacy, campaign planning, and speaking with elected officials. After breaking into groups and practicing public speaking, the health leaders, supported by Ecology Center staffers, headed out to meet with the representatives and senators.
Trusted and well-respected, health professionals serve as effective messengers. The Health Leaders have the first-hand experience to highlight the connections between the policies that our legislators make and the communities that they impact. Policies, for example, that sanction pollution from coal-fired power plants, can have direct results locally as doctors, nurses, and clinicians treat increased numbers of patients suffering from asthma.
The Health Leaders focused on two objectives for the day: encouraging supportive legislators to stay strong regarding renewable energy bill packages and spreading awareness about a Lindane bill that could protect our children from toxic lice treatments.
The Health Leaders, many of whom hadn't been to the Capitol before, gained confidence as public spokespersons in their first foray into advocacy. They found that elected officials are approachable, “real people” who welcome input from their constituents and those concerned about public health.
“Overall the day was a success,” according to Liz Starke, Climate & Energy Outreach Coordinator with the Ecology Center and Health Leaders Fellow Strategic Advisor. “Our health leaders left tired from a long day of meetings, but energized to get started on their practicum projects, which will range from getting healthier food at their institutions to bringing even more health professionals to the Capitol to push for energy reform.”
Photo: Bernadine, Stacy, Dana (left to right) outside the Capitol for the 2015 Health Fellows Day
Published on June 17, 2015