Making Contact with Policymakers
There are many well-recognized methods to inform legislators and establish yourself as an expert consultant on public health. It is critical to develop a relationship with legislators and their staff members well before a key vote. That way, when they need information quickly, they will contact you because they value your perspective on public health issues and see you as a trusted resource.
Here are several activities with which to start building a relationship.
1. MEET with your legislator(s) at home in your district. Each member of Congress has at least one office at home in their district or state, and may have more than one office. You can find contact information for the Washington office and district office(s) of your members of Congress at NACCHO''s Congressional Directory. The Directory also includes a brief biography and a list of which committees each member of Congress sits on.
NACCHO has prepared a sample meeting request letter for your use. More tips and information about setting up meetings with members of Congress are available here. Above all, use examples from your community that bring home the importance of the work your local health department is doing.
You can find fact sheets on NACCHO legislative priorities below:
2. INVITE your member of Congress and their staff to visit your health department. NACCHO can help you prepare for their visit. Showing off the work you do firsthand is the best way to give policymakers insight into how you help keep their constituents healthy and safe. For example, members could be invited to participate in a screening or a clinic for flu shots or a public health fair. Work with the member''s office to provide press coverage. They will be more inclined to come visit if it is an opportunity to show how they are calling attention to issues in your community.
3. ATTEND a town hall meeting or other public event with a member of Congress in attendance and speak about public health issues. NACCHO''s tips for town hall meetings are available here.
4. WRITE to your legislator(s) to introduce yourself and the issues that concern you. NACCHO provides sample letters through our Legislative Action Center, or you can write your own letter on a topic of concern. It is always best to personalize your letter with details about how the issue will affect people in your community. Local stories, people, and data will be most interesting and most persuasive to policymakers. Talk about people in the community who are affected, not the details of the programs or initiatives.
5. ESTABLISH a friendly, helpful relationship with the staff that handle public health issues for your senators and congressional representatives. Follow up with staff periodically by e-mail to share local news of the work your health department is doing. Contact information for congressional offices at home and in Washington, DC, can be found here.
Thank you for your efforts to raise the visibility of public health and local health departments! Please contact Eli Briggs, NACCHO Director of Government Affairs, with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-507-4194.