It was my honor and pleasure to serve as GLC-SOPHE’s representative at the 20th Health Education Advocacy Summit held this past weekend in Washington, DC. As the current SOPHE Advocacy Committee co-chair, this Summit was especially thrilling because for the first time ever, SOPHE decided to advocate for a public health issue versus funding priorities. The topic unanimously chosen by the Advocacy Committee, and supported by SOPHE Administration, was gun control and prevention. How thrilling to talk about firearm safety just three weeks before the crucial midterm elections!!! Needless to say, our work was necessary and timely.
We learned about advocacy and got FIRED UP from speakers for two days prior to our Hill visits. A few interesting notes: Not all public health professionals agree that gun violence and prevention is a public health issue. It was debated a little and some usual attendees at the Summit did not attend because this topic was chosen. WOW! I really never though that those in public health would be deterred from common sense legislation and CDC funding for research, but I was WRONG! It shows that this controversial topic really gets to the hearts of most Americans and how we each define the Second Amendment.
I further learned that mass shootings (like the tragedies at Sandy Hook, Nevada, etc.) account for just 2% of gun violence. The vast majority of intentional and unintentional gun injuries come from suicide attempts and domestic violence. Further, I learned that since the emotional part of a teen’s brain is developed, but their reasoning part of the brain won’t be fully functioning until their mid-20’s, access to firearms becomes a major issue in the moment of a suicide attempt. In just 10 minutes, a teen can change his/her mind. So, if guns (the overwhelmingly most deadly way to commit suicide) are not available, these teens will probably live. All other types of suicide only account for less than 5% of deaths. Also, most people who attempt will not attempt again. This shows that not having access to guns in these crucial moments makes a difference. Even my Dad agrees with common sense legislation and he’s a lifelong NRA member and believes the government is out to get everyone J Actually, 97% of Americans agree on background checks and closing the loopholes in current legislation, and 74% of NRA members support common sense gun laws. So what is the problem??? Big lobbyists paying our legislators for support. But we have POWER as voters….I’ll get to that in a minute.
For the Hill visits, I was fortunate enough to lead a team of seven CMU and WMU students, while Dr. Amos Aduroja (WMU) led another group of five students. Collectively, we visits both of our U.S. Senators’ offices (Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters) and seven of our U.S. Representatives!!!! What impact!!! We told personal stories about gun violence (those we knew who committed suicide, the CMU campus shooter), stated factual information, and left them with a packet of additional resources. The day started with an actual Health Educator who now works on the Hill in Senator Udall’s office talking to us about how her health education skills prepared her to be a legislative aide. Her last words resonated with me and I want to share them with you:
“Show up, stand up, speak up, act up.”
The time is NOW for all Health Educators to advocate for the issues of which they most closely work. Start with 10 minutes per week and see the good you can do! My biggest plea is to show our policymakers that they work for US, the voters, so get out and VOTE on November 6!!! Nationally, the largest group of political activists is actually the group that is inactive. That is not acceptable for Health Educators who follow national competencies!!! Do your part and start by voting! Our GLC-SOPHE and SOPHE websites have a wealth of resources and information about advocacy. Do some exploring and think about joining our GLC-SOPHE Advocacy Committee. If that goes well, consider the SOPHE Advocacy Committee. If you need ideas of what you can do on your own time, feel free to contact me.
Again, thank you GLC-SOPHE for this AWESOME opportunity!!! I look forward to our continual efforts toward advocacy and believe we are establishing a culture of civic engagement among our profession. One day, we won’t have advocacy committees, as all Health Educators will be doing advocacy without thinking (like wearing a seat belt).
THE POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
Respectfully yours in advocacy and all health education efforts,
Jodi Brookins-Fisher, PhD, MCHES, FESG
GLC-SOPHE Advocacy Committee member