Dr. Williams-WillinghamThe AAP Committee on Federal Government Affairs is made up of pediatricians with knowledge and experience in federal advocacy. This month, Melinda Williams-Willingham, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, of Georgia, answers questions about her perspective on federal advocacy.
What sparked your interest in federal advocacy?
My interest in federal advocacy was initially sparked by the debate on health care in the late-1990s. During my residency, I frequently encountered low-income families who could not access quality health care and lived in poverty. Therefore, I was very excited when the CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) legislation passed ... Now, many more children had access to quality care.
Immediately after my residency, I worked for a Medicaid-only pediatric clinic in Georgia. Unfortunately, this clinic was created in the late-1990s because there were several physicians in the state who did not accept children who had Medicaid, creating a severe access issue. Several of my patients could not receive basic orthopedic and surgical care, which led me to become their voice and get involved in advocacy at the local, state and federal level.
What advice would you give to those pursuing federal advocacy?
I would recommend one learn how to craft the message and how to build relationships. Remember to relax; no one knows the challenges your patients face better than you do. Advocacy frequently requires patience and a long-term strategy.
What one word would you use to describe an effective child health advocate?
Timely and relevant with the message
Educated about the facts
Nurtures the relationship
Ability to persuade and be assertive
Concise and confident messaging. A champion for the cause.
Identifies the issue and gets involved
Opens his/her mind and is flexible at times
Upbeat and unyielding
Springs into action