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Strategic goal #2: GHF as a champion of community-led change

In July, GHF’s Board of Directors and staff launched our new 2022-2026 strategic plan–an ambitious blueprint for our next four years as an organization. Guided by this living document, GHF will deepen our focus on health equity; champion community-led change; build a healthy, resilient organization; and lead advocacy to strengthen Georgia’s public health systems and workforce.

In a series of four blogs, GHF’s Executive Director Laura Colbert spotlights each of our new strategic goals. If you missed her first blog on GHF’s health equity goals, you can catch up here.

Strategic Goal #2: GHF meaningfully and consistently engages with communities and individuals in ways that amplify their voices and experiences to achieve policy change. 

To describe ourselves, Georgians for a Healthy Future has previously used the tagline, “the voice for Georgia health care consumers.” The tagline intends to capture GHF’s advocacy in a nutshell. We speak up for the health and well-being of Georgians in our state’s halls of power, often when Georgians cannot be there to advocate for themselves. 

As our GHF team worked through the strategic planning process, one thing became clear; our tagline needed adjustment and GHF’s work would shift to reflect that. Instead of speaking for Georgians, GHF aims to amplify their voices, carrying their own words into the rooms where decisions are made about important health and health care issues.

GHF has always cultivated deep policy expertise on key health policy issues like Medicaid expansion or surprise medical billing that impact marginalized and under-resourced Georgians. In contrast, we have been inconsistent about building deep grassroots relationships with those same Georgians. Without authentic relationships, GHF’s work may not reflect the real health needs or priorities of the very Georgians we say we work for. Our attempts to amplify their voices will fall short. 

With our second strategic goal, we aim to fix this imbalance. We committed to four objectives to get started: 

  • Facilitate meaningful community input during each policy advocacy initiative so that we better understand the problem and identify community-supported and community-driven solutions. At the beginning of each new project or initiative, GHF will seek the leadership and advice of the communities most impacted by the issue we plan to explore. This community input will help GHF understand a community’s on-the-ground realities in ways that data doesn’t reveal. 
    For example, a GHF data analysis may point to transportation barriers as a leading health issue in Rural County A. Meanwhile, a community listening session reveals that the school-based health center at the local elementary school serves as a convenient access point for residents. Instead low-income residents identify a lack of access to healthy foods as their top health issue. These nuances are equally important for GHF to understand and incorporate in our work as it is to closely examine the data.
  • Establish multi-year funded partnerships with local orgs that are led by and support marginalized Georgians outside metro-Atlanta. Community-based organizations and community groups are the experts about their own communities’ experiences and priorities. GHF cannot expertly know and understand every marginalized and under-resourced group in the state, so we will seek to partner with and invest in those who are. GHF will support their work and health advocacy efforts with multi-year funding and will work alongside these groups to facilitate their expertise, leadership, and input. This is an important equity investment for GHF, as marginalized and under-resourced Georgia communities have repeatedly been left behind by broken promises and inconsistent investments. We are hopeful that these investments help to build power for these groups, in addition to supporting our working relationships with them.
  • Strengthen the Georgia Health Action Network (GHAN) so it expands to more Georgia communities and facilitates information exchange between community members and GHF. GHF will be able to invest in multi-year support for only a few communities across the state. However, we can offer advice, leadership development, and other benefits to community advocates who are motivated to grow their advocacy skills and efforts through GHF’s GHAN program. GHF launched GHAN as a volunteer-led program that supports advocates as they organize and lead local and state health advocacy efforts, but the program has been less active than intended. With more vigorous facilitation of GHAN, GHF can learn from the participating community advocates about the health experiences of their family and neighbors. GHF’s GHAN can also act as a connector, creating a network of advocates across the state who know each other and collaborate across shared health issues–multiplying the power of individual advocates to accomplish even bigger advocacy successes.
  • Partner with civic engagement organizations, direct-service organizations, and community-based groups to provide training and support on health policy in exchange for community feedback on emerging health issues. GHF already provides advocacy and policy training and support to groups across the state as requested, but often the trainings are discrete, one-time interactions without much follow-up. We will continue to offer this service and engage groups in health advocacy efforts as they are interested. At the same time, we will build a more supportive framework for keeping these groups engaged beyond one-time trainings or community visits. GHF will also look for ways to equitably seek input from the communities represented by such groups as part of these partnerships, helping to expand our perspectives and understanding even further.

It will require persistence and commitment for GHF to build the kind of equitable relationships that both support the priorities of local communities and inform GHF’s health advocacy. Our team will measure our progress towards these objectives, including asking for input from the partners, communities, and groups with whom we engage. As we assess these efforts and learn along the way, we will share our headway with all of you.

With these changes, we believe we can fulfill our new and improved tagline: Amplifying the voices of Georgia health care consumers.

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