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Government affairs expert shares advice for effective advocacy :

June 17, 2016

Dr. RaulersonDr. RaulersonMarsha D. Raulerson, M.D., FAAP, has served as chair of the AAP Committee on Federal Government Affairs since July 2012, overseeing the Academy’s federal advocacy efforts and playing a pivotal role in the advancement of numerous child health priorities in Washington. This month, Dr. Raulerson’s term ends, and Lynda M. Young, M.D., FAAP, will assume the role.

As a longtime advocate for children’s health and co-chair of the AAP Legislative Conference for several years, Dr. Raulerson has served as a mentor for medical students, residents and pediatricians across the country. Here is her advice for being an effective voice for children:

  • Build relationships based on mutual respect: “I think the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to advocacy is that you’re working on a long-term relationship,” said Dr. Raulerson. She explained that while an elected official or legislative staff may not always be able to meet your request for a visit on Capitol Hill, it is important to establish yourself as a constituent and child health expert they can rely on. “They’re in a position to use your information to do good for children at the policy level.”
  • Know your “ask”: As you get ready for a visit with a congressional office, Dr. Raulerson suggests rehearsing how you plan to approach your meeting and share your “ask,” or your request of the legislator, especially if you will be attending the meeting as part of a group of advocates. After your meeting, send staff an email thanking them for their time and reiterating your ask. Another helpful tip: Dr. Raulerson has the phone numbers of her congressional offices saved in her phone so that when she knows an important vote is coming up, the contact information is at her fingertips.
  • Develop partnerships: “Always think about who your partners are and establish relationships with people who share an interest in the well-being of children,” said Dr. Raulerson. Throughout her career, Dr. Raulerson has participated in advocacy with other like-minded organizations, giving her another avenue to talk about federal child health policy.
  • Show up and listen: As the saying goes, showing up can be half the battle. Dr. Raulerson explained how being an active observer can be beneficial to your advocacy work. She says she has attended meetings or events where she may not have had a formal speaking role, but she absorbed the information and made the relevant connections to her work. “Show up, listen and use the information to make things better for kids,” she said.
  • Celebrate your successes: “When it comes to advocacy, sometimes you want change to happen that day, but sometimes it can take years, so you need to celebrate your successes along the way,” said Dr. Raulerson. Medicaid expansion and children’s health insurance coverage are two areas of progress. “It didn’t happen overnight; it happened over a number of years.”

Since advocacy is a marathon not a sprint, often with roadblocks along the way, what keeps Dr. Raulerson motivated to continue her work to improve policies and programs impacting children? For that answer, she turns to a quote from the late Katherine Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post: “To love what you do and feel that it matters — how could anything be more fun?”

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