Speakers at the January 30 KCMS webinar offered physicians in attendance much useful advice about how to be more effective advocates with legislators and in their communities. Some highlights:

  • In advocacy, expect more losses than wins. It is a long-term process.
  • Try building long-term relationships with legislators. Start when they are first elected. Contact your local legislator whether new or established, and ask for a short informal introductory meeting, “a cup of coffee.”
  • Make your communication with legislators two-way. Find out their interests and speak to those. Realize that it takes a long time to “build your political capital.”
  • An example of a physician championing a health issue with the legislature is Dr. Joshua Mammen’s work with tanning bed legislation in Kansas.
  • Municipal government is important, too. Encourage physicians to testify before city councils on relevant issues and join local board and commissions. The physician voice is highly respected. With just a few hours of testimony each before local councils, physicians were able to boost passage of Tobacco 21 throughout the region.
  • By getting involved in community health issues, I can impact hundreds of thousands of people instead of just the few thousand in my patient panel.
  • We must rebuild public health. Will we be ready for the next pandemic? Public health is dramatically underfunded in Missouri and Kansas.
  • Current Missouri legislation pending seeks to curtail the authority of local public health departments to issue health orders protecting the public.
  • Just as important as legislative advocacy is administrative advocacy with the departments that make the rules for state programs and services.
  • Sometimes we have to make tough decisions. Was it the right decision to oppose the 2016 proposed Missouri tobacco tax increase advanced by child advocates because it wasn’t large enough to curtail smoking? Would it have been better to make incremental progress?