Welcome to NACCHO's Legislative Resources page. Here, you will find all the tools and resources you need to better-understand NACCHO's policy positions and activities in Washington.
A 2010 survey of congressional staff by the Congressional Management Foundation ranked various methods of communicating with members of Congress.
- Constituent visits to the Washington office (97%) and to the district/state office (94%) were found to have 'some' or 'a lot' of influence on an undecided Member, more than any other influence group or strategy.
- Nearly identical percentages of staffers said postal mail (90%) and e-mail (88%) would influence an undecided member of Congress. Personalized letters and e-mails (not form letters) remain one of the most influential methods of communicating with policymakers.
Getting involved in efforts to educate policymakers is time consuming, but has the potential to reward, in terms of influence and real dollars.
It is important that your voice be heard by your elected representatives in Congress for the following reasons:
- Your community can benefit from the support of a well-placed legislator. Legislation and administrative policies usually require a broad base of support in order to become enacted.
- Your professional training, experience in public health and position in the community affords you undeniable credibility.
- Every legislator is in favor of protecting the health of their family and residents of their community. They just don't know exactly what public health is or what it means.
- If you don't explain what your local health department does, nobody else will.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Attend a town hall meeting or other public event with a member of Congress in attendance and speak about public health issues.
- Write to your legislator(s) to introduce yourself and the issues that concern you. 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.
- 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.
In November 2015, NACCHO's Board of Directors approved the 2016 Federal Legislative and Policy Agenda.
Priority issues include:
- A balanced approach to deficit reduction, including spending cuts and revenue, and an end to sequestration
- FY2016 and FY2017 budget and appropriations for programs within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response which strengthen local health department performance
- Continuation at authorized levels of the Prevention and Public Health Fund
- Infrastructure and policies that support local health department capacity (workforce and technology) to participate in health data exchange with health care and human service providers
- Support for local health department involvement in implementation of the Affordable Care Act
Local health department officials are encouraged to contact their Members of Congress to educate them on issues surrounding public health. When health officials educate, advocate, or lobby Members of Congress on public health issues they need to be informed as to what exactly defines advocating, educating, and when they are lobbying. NACCHO has developed a fact sheet to identify the differences between advocacy, education, and lobbying.