The Power of Physicians in Shaping Public Policy

When the COVID-19 health crisis subsides, the contributions by healthcare providers to lessening the suffering of the population will be one of the pandemic’s major stories. But when the lessons learned in 2020 become part of necessary changes in healthcare-related laws and regulations, will physicians personally take part in that conversation?

As constituents, physicians have great influence on public policy when they bring their concerns to elected representatives and their staff. Direct constituent interactions, whether they be with local council members, school board representatives, or state or congressional representatives, can often yield greater influence on policymakers’ decisions than professional lobbyists and other industry representatives. Constituents possess two major keys that hold great value: Their vote and, when strategically used, the influence of personal stories.

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A 2017 study by the Congressional Management Foundation found that 79 percent of congressional staff surveyed believed that personal stories from constituents who had reached out to voice a concern or a position on a bill or issue were helpful in shaping and informing their opinions on issues. In an environment where elected representatives are constantly moving from issue to issue, it is the pause that is taken to give an issue the consideration from a real-life experience or consequence that will most strongly inform and educate the elected member. Put together a few dozen or several hundred individual voices expressing a concern and suddenly, it gets hard to ignore.

In the sphere of public relations, there are many arms ― lobbying, fundraising, donations, and campaigns― but when it comes to the true essence of our political process, the most powerful action happens in the ballot box and that remains an individual power. One phone call, one fax, one email, one text, one Tweet, one Facebook posting ― performed by many ― becomes a roaring voice.

Here in California, we enjoy a robust political structure from not only the state’s 40 million residents, but also from its vast array of industries, natural resources, and even topographies. In a state as large and as layered as California, there is sure to be an office or a representative to be found for every one of those layers. As an example, 80 Assembly members and 40 state Senators want your input on issues affecting the people who put them in office. In Congress, an additional 53 House members and two Senators represent your interests. Depending on the issue, there are multiple avenues to contact these elected representatives ― plus others even more local. 

CAP’s physicians have thousands of stories to tell. Hone yours and let us know how we can help you tell it. Following are links to locate your elected representatives.

California State Representatives: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/

California Congressional Representatives: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

California U.S. Senators: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/CA   

Gabriela Villanueva is CAP’s Government & External Affairs Specialist. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to gvillanueva@CAPphysicians.com.