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by: Dr. Veenod “Vinny” Chulani, Medical Director, Orlando Children’s Health Project
Last month, the Orlando Children’s Health Project held Pediatric Advocacy Day to raise awareness of the importance of advocacy and engage the pediatric community in the legislative process. As part of CHF’s National Network, I’ve been lucky enough to become an advocate not only for my program, but for my patients, bringing their voices to the halls of Congress and locally to my elected representatives in Orlando. This work is critical, as many of my patients depend on safety net programs, like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Pediatric Advocacy Day began as in idea to better engage pediatric residents at the Arnold Palmer Medical Center and give them the tools to become advocates for their patients outside of the hospital, to the community and elected officials. To start the day, widely respected child advocate Jack Levine delivered Grand Rounds entitled The Crossroads of Politics and Policy: How to Advocate Without Getting Run Over.
The day continued with a forum: Advocates in Action for Children and Families, and was attended by hospital and residency administrators, pediatric faculty and residents, and members of the institution's Community Leadership Council, and the Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation and its board. The forum highlighted the need for advocates to help inform the implementation of health care reform to best serve children and families.
Advocacy is important as it provides a way to move beyond individual solutions, from treating one patient at a time, to create and be part of broader, more systemic change. It has allowed me to use my credibility as a pediatrician and my personal stories to influence change and work with decision makers to create a broader understanding and awareness of the issues that are impacting patients and families for whom I provide care.
Pediatric Advocacy Day is about multiplying the mindset and building advocacy capacity. The day was an incredible success, with attendees reporting an increased awareness of advocacy and confidence in being an advocate for children and families.