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Health Policy Corner: So Where Do I Start? How to Get Involved in Health Policy

Kristen E. Riley, PhD
Kristen E. Riley, PhD

Kristen E. Riley, Ph.D.

Want to advocate for specific health policy issues but not sure where to start? Our voices and research and clinical experiences matter and can inform health-related policies. In fact, research informed health policy has been shown to increase public health, reduce rates of chronic disease, and reduce health disparities. Below are some ideas on how to get involved:

Write a health policy brief
Write a health policy brief about your own research, clinical work, or an important topic. See this article in the Spring 2019 Health Psychologist from Dr. Joanna Buscemi, PhD for how to write a health policy brief: https://div38healthpsychologist.com/2019/03/18/developing-health-policy-briefs-to-bridge-research-to-policy-translation-gaps/. Examples can be seen on the SfHP Health Policy Council website: https://societyforhealthpsychology.org/councils-committees/health-policy-council/ and the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) Health Policy Council website:  https://www.sbm.org/advocacy/key-policy-issues.

Submit a comment during an open comment period
Oftentimes new rules and regulations are open for public comment prior to passage. This is an important time during which our specialized knowledge of health research and practice can inform health policy. Pay attention to listservs and emails for open comment periods.
https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/regulations/rulemaking-tool-kit.pdf

Be on a list of contacts for the Health Policy Council at SfHP
Open comment period windows are short (i.e., a few weeks), and comments placed through the Health Policy Council need to be approved by SfHP and APA, so we at the Health Policy Council often email experts in the content area of the open comment to see if they may be willing to quickly put something together, usually with a group of people, with guidance from the SfHP Health Policy Council. If you are willing to be on our list, please email me at Kristen.Riley@Rutgers.edu with your contact email and content areas of expertise. Signing up does not commit you to writing a brief or response to request for public comments.

Call your legislators
Call or write your legislators! The empirical evidence shows that it matters. It only takes a few minutes. Resistbot is a text messaging service that can help you write your legislators. Find a list of your legislators here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

Get to know your legislators
Pat Kobor, Senior Science Policy Analyst at APA, has suggested Inviting your legislators to visit your office or lab. Even if they tend to vote the way you do, they don’t have the expertise you have when it comes to patient and public health. See the APA Science Advocacy Toolkit here for more information: http://advocacy.apascience.org/how-to-advocate/

Email your Health Policy Council with recommendations
Your Health Policy Council at SfHP, led by Dr. Stephanie Fitzpatrick, is always looking for recommendations for topics for policy briefs and new opportunities to advocate for health policy. Please feel free to email ideas to Kristen.Riley@Rutgers.edu

Collaborate
Don’t have the time to write a policy brief or comment on your own? Reach out to professional networks, collaborators, and listservs for collaboration and help!

Try to disseminate research with policy implications after publication
Contact your media relations specialist at your university or hospital or institution for help disseminating your research findings to a lay audience. Also consider publishing in the Translational Behavioral Medicine journal where many policy briefs are published.

Be proactive
A priority of the APA and SfHP this year is to be proactive instead of reactive. Try to identify upcoming issues and important topics.

Set a goal about how to get more involved now
Write a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound), right now to keep you on track. Remember to keep it realistic. With a few simple steps, you can make your research count, impact policy, and public health.