Designing an Advocacy Program

Advocacy should be a permanent program, integrated into the health care organization's ongoing activities. The structure should include appointing an advocacy coordinator and naming a health care policy steering committee.

Advocacy Coordinator
To make public policy activity an ongoing, proactive function in your organization, a staff member should be appointed to coordinate the effort. Although not likely to be a full-time position at a facility level, the role should be assigned with specific duties and the individual given sufficient resources to carry out responsibilities.

Candidates for the position could come from the legal, public relations, mission effectiveness, planning, finance, or even clinical departments. It is important for the advocacy coordinator to have direct reporting access to the president or CEO of the organization. In long-term care facilities, the administrator is likely to fill the advocacy coordinator role.

The advocacy coordinator should have an understanding of the tradition and mission of Catholic health care and an interest in public policy, politics, and related health care policy issues. He or she should understand the legislative process and be interested in or participate in local, state, and national political or policy issues.

Duties of the advocacy coordinator may include:

  • Keeping up with major health care policy issues
  • Establishing contact with the staff of local and federal legislative and regulatory offices
  • Scheduling and coordinating visits to the facility by legislators and other officials
  • Preparing written materials, such as policy summaries and position papers, to send to legislators and policy makers
  • Coordinating letter writing and telephone tree activities as necessary
  • Responding to requests concerning health care policy from national organizations, system offices, and other groups
  • Collaborating with other health providers, community organizations, and other interested persons and groups
  • Reporting health care policy developments and advocacy activities to the executive office, governing body, system offices, and the community
  • Coordinating with communications/public relations staff in order to inform them and/or the media of public policy agendas
  • Convening the advocacy steering committee to discuss policy positions and priorities

Advocacy Steering Committee
An advocacy steering committee can assist the advocacy coordinator and strengthen the advocacy program. In appointing the committee, seek out members of the board, medical staff, and employees who have personal relationships with key policymakers, an interest in health care policy, and experience in politics and the legislative process.

The role of the advocacy steering committee may include:

  • Keeping informed of health care issues and policy developments
  • Planning educational sessions for staff and the governing body on health care policy issues
  • Establishing processes for keeping management, employees, medical staff, and others informed about developments in health policy, and for informing the health care system and CHA about the views of these groups
  • Contacting community members to solicit their participation and support in advocacy initiatives
  • Reviewing results of the advocacy program and making recommendations for future approaches and activities
  • Formulating policy positions and priorities