In case you missed it, we wanted to call your attention to this post over at Say Ahhh!, the children’s health policy blog run by one of our partners, the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. In the post, Eugene Lewit and Liane Wong of the David and Lucille Packard Foundation note the release of two issue briefs that report findings gleaned from an evaluation of the Foundation’s Insuring America’s Children: States Leading the Way (IAC) grantmaking program. Both of these briefs help to answer the question of what makes child health advocates successful.

The first of these briefs, State-Based Advocacy as a Tool for Expanding Children’s Coverage: Lessons from Site Visits to Six IAC Grantee States, takes a broad view and explores what strategies are used by effective state-based child health advocates. These strategies include:

  1. Building and involving a broad-based coalition of stakeholders
  2. Identifying and cultivating diverse, respected champions for children’s coverage
  3. Using effective and impactful message strategies and using strategies in flexible ways
  4. Working to encourage a cultural shift among health program administrators
  5. Establishing themselves as respected go-to organizations for credible information and data
  6. Taking advantage of recent federal changes
The brief goes into each of these strategies in significant detail and demonstrates that the right advocacy strategies can achieve gains for our children, even during a period of severe economic crisis. Impressively, each of the six states depicted in the issue brief were successful in either achieving an increase in eligibility for children or in having their state enact policies to make enrollment and retention easier in public health insurance programs.

The second brief, Strategic Engagement of Policymakers is Key to Advancing a Children’s Health Care Coverage Policy Agenda, takes a deeper look at a specific strategy described in the first issue brief — identifying and building relationships with champions for children’s coverage. To build a successful relationship with champions for children’s coverage, the second brief shows that advocates who successfully employ this strategy use the following methods to do so:

  1. Identifying, nurturing, and supporting political champions
  2. Creating critical links between grassroots advocacy and policymakers
  3. Using effective messages to appeal to policymakers
  4. Establishing state-based advocacy as go-to organizations for policymakers
  5. Sharing ownership of agendas and successes with policymakers
This second brief also goes into significant detail about each of these methods but also emphasizes that each state’s specific political environment needs to shape the particular methods advocates use to cultivate champions for children’s coverage. However, what does not change across states is the critical importance of developing political champions as allies in the effort to advance children’s health insurance coverage.

Given the wealth of valuable information contained in both of these briefs, we believe that taking the time to read both in full would be time well spent for all state advocates focused on child health and even for those who are not solely focused on children. This research ultimately confirms what advocates across the nation have always known — that they can and do make a difference in the lives of children and families.

—Patrick Tigue, Children’s Health Care Coordinator, New England Alliance for Children’s Health