Thursday, March 8, 2012

Grassroots Advocacy

Every year, the Iowa Hospital Association hosts a Legislative Day where community hospital supporters from across the state come to Des Moines to learn about healthcare issues on the legislative agenda.

At GRMC, we are very fortunate to have an active and engaged auxiliary that handles all the logistics for our group to attend. They arrange for a bus. They invite people to attend. They make the reservations with IHA, and make it an enjoyable day of learning and advocacy. The GRMC Auxiliary does a great job of orchestrating the entire trip. We have anywhere from 25 to 45 who attend on an annual basis.

This year, about 1,000 participants gathered at the new Veterans’ Memorial Ballroom in Des Moines, which was spectacular. It was something to sit in that beautiful space and look up at the rafters and orient myself in what used to be the gymnasium where I watched many sporting events. It is now a well-appointed large ballroom that can comfortably accommodate a crowd.

Gov. Terry Branstad was the after-lunch speaker for the event. I was pleased with the Governor’s remarks about the Healthiest State Initiative. Anyone who knows me professionally knows that I have been a staunch supporter of disease prevention and wellness efforts. Community hospitals have an important role to play as the health experts in Iowa’s cities and towns. I fully support the Healthiest State Initiative because I know that lessening the risks associated with many chronic diseases can help prevent people from developing diabetes, heart disease, and often several kinds of cancer.

On our tables at the luncheon were pictorial guides of all the Iowa House and Senate members organized by the hospitals in the district each legislator serves. They also provide a card with the talking points of IHA positions on issues and specific bills.

When dismissed from the luncheon and program, the attendees returned to our buses and vehicles and headed out to meet with our legislators. Every day is a busy day for an Iowa legislator, especially during the session. We always try to set up meetings in advance so that our legislators know that we are coming and that they can try to include us in their schedule planning for the day. As they say, “even the best laid plans” don’t always work out. This year, we had an excellent and open conversation with Sen. Tom Rielly (D-38) of Oskaloosa, in the auditorium of the Wallace Building. We can ask questions, provide information, and give another point of view that our legislators may not know or consider. And they provide the same for us. Our role as advocates is to inform and participate in the legislative process. Legislative Day gives us an up close and personal view of our state system of government.

I hope you will consider joining us next year. It is usually the last Wednesday in February and the auxiliary makes it very easy to go along. Our districts are changing in 2012 and we will have new legislators next year, which will make 2013 Legislative Day an interesting one.

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