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Monday, February 1, 2010

Bringing health reform into a positive light

Kate Blocher

Staff Writer

As the health reform debate rages on, proponents of reform are finding it more and more difficult to find effective messaging against the opposition. Lucky for the attendees of Health Action 2010, we were able to attend the workshop "Messaging Challenges for States," where we were provided effective messaging tips to help advocates effectively address health reform implementation and connect with the public.

As many health care advocates, and any one paying attention to the debate, know, the biggest challenge to convincing the public of the benefits of health reform is the public's general distrust of government. But how do we overcome this distrust, especially when the opposition is working so vigorously to spread this message with lies like, "health reform is a government take-over of medicine" and "the government is trying to get between you and your doctor!"

Here are some helpful tips to take back the debate and win over the public:

  • Be proactive and take back the health reform discussion - make the opposition explain why they don't want reform

  • Explain the bill. People like the bill, they just don't truly believe the policies will be implemented. Break down the bill for them, and make it easy to digest.

  • Story telling. Bring real stories to the public. Not only show them how our broken system has hurt their friends, families and neighbors, but also show them how reforms that have already been implemented, like CHIPRA or the extended COBRA, have helped people.

  • Respond effectively to the opposition. This can be especially effective for people who are on the fence, and not sure whether or not reform is good for them. A strong response can sway them.

  • Respond to fears created by the opposition.

Jim Duffett from Campaign for Better Health Care, Illinois, Cynthia Zeldin, Georgians for a Healthy Future and Jeffrey Liszt, Anzalone Liszt Research also spoke. Jim and Cynthia gave us a state perspective and explained what they were doing in their communities to get an effective message across. Both were using traditional approaches as well as taking innovative approaches to tried and true methods. For instance, to ensure that the Illinois legislature is on message with reform, Jim Duffett and his group have put together a resolution that reinforces the benefits of the health reform bill and the need to embrace the bill after it passes and implement its policies.

Although we still have a few tough battles ahead of us in the fight over health reform, I'm confident, with the tips and strategies our advocates learned in this workshop, we will overcome these challenges and pass health reform soon!