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By Dennis Johnson, MPA Executive Vice President, Policy and Advocacy
One of the more enjoyable and energizing aspects of my work is the occasional opportunity to speak with young people about the Children's Health Fund mission and how we leverage our assets to help medically underserved kids and communities. Today we had a group in from Notre Dame University, who wanted to learn about our medical programs and how they informed our policy and advocacy activities. College students have a way of cutting through the organizational and policy doublespeak that diminish clear thinking and expression and our guests were no exception. Their questions were incisive went right to the heart of why our work is so vital. If not now, when? If not us, who?
CHF Executive Director, Karen Redlener, in recalling the genesis of the organization, told of her earlier post-college experience as a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteer in rural Arkansas. Many of our guests seemed to sense a connection with their own interest in exploring ways of uplifting communities and helping the disadvantaged to gain better access to critically needed services. They also seemed to have a genuine interest in the scope of healthcare issues that remain to be addressed. When our chief medical officer Dr. Arturo Brito explained the breadth of the Children's Health Fund National Network, our guests began to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the enormous challenges that children face in the medically underserved communities of America. Most were amazed to learn that nearly a quarter of American children live below or at the poverty line and that that number continues to increase. There was a great deal of interest in learning about the elements that constitute the “enhanced medical home” model of care, what it means for the children we care for and why it is central to the our mission. When the discussion segued to the Fund’s policy and advocacy work the questions turned, as they so often do, to basic fundamental questions about why a great nation hasn't figured out how to make quality healthcare available to all children. There were some terrific questions about the economics of healthcare and the best ways to convert our lessons learned into more responsive national policy. Though we didn't have a great deal of time to explore issues in depth, I think we were able to breathe a little excitement into an issue that is too often cast only in terms of cost, benefit and return on investment. For those of us who work the nuts and bolts of these issues every day, having a spirited discussion with a group of bright young thinkers was a splendid way to begin the work week and a reminder of the impressive, committed young people that will rise to carry our mission forward.