On April 26, 2017, more than fifty health equity advocates from Western MA gathered in Springfield, MA, to gain a better understanding of several statewide policy issues and how to strategically advocate for them. In a pre-assembly poll, participants conveyed that they wanted to better understand the process for passing bills and getting funds in the state budget, so MPHA gave special attention to conveying the timelines and steps involved.
Participants also spent time at the Assembly reading about specific bills and budget line items, followed by small group strategy sessions to identify the key decision-makers, timing, method, message, and messengers to influence policy makers. Some small-group discussions also focused on how to involve more people from low-income communities and communities of color in advocacy issues.
Some of the social determinants of health the groups focused on include:
- Access to transportation & education (Fair Share Constitutional Amendment)
- Healthy food access (MA Food Trust and SNAP gap)
- Access to care (Prevention Wellness Trust Fund and budget line items for Substance Use Disorder & Treatment)
- Civil Rights (Safe Communities Act)
This Policy Assembly was co-sponsored by the Western MA Health Equity Network and UMass-Amherst School of Public Health & Health Sciences with financial and in-kind support from Baystate Health and Shriners Hospital for Children-Springfield.
The Planning Team for this Policy Assembly were:
- Andrea Freeman, MPHA
- Brenda Evans, MA Association of Community Health Workers
- Jennifer Lee, Stavros
- Kathy Wicks, Partners for a Healthier Community
- Risa Silverman, UMass-Amherst School of Public Health & Health Sciences,
- Sue Cairn, Collaborative or Education Services