April 17, 2024

Positioning Champions

When health care providers notice policy issues that warrant a response, some members may be reluctant to engage. But believe it or not, your legislators want to hear from you. Citizens’ participation in the civic process is essential for our policymakers to understand how their decisions affect various communities and populations that may not be on the forefront of their minds. In this regard, health care providers have an important role to play in advocacy.

While responding to various political challenges over the last several weeks, the identification of legislative champions has been a recurring theme. Whether we are thinking about the surgeon general in Florida, the governor of Oregon or the mayor in Philadelphia, we hope to prepare Academy members not only to be able to engage with policymakers about a current political issue but also to be able to do this important work in the context of establishing a long-term relationship.

The Academy wants to help our members identify policymakers who are both influential, committed and capable of understanding our perspectives and advancing our issues. When members successfully deploy their expertise, they may become future resources that can be called on by policymakers in the future. The effective approach for identifying legislative champions won’t look the same in Florida as it does in Philadelphia. In order to be relevant and effective, this process should vary with each policy issue and jurisdiction.

Building Legislative Champions

Champion building is a key tactic that our members can employ to influence their advocacy work. Champions are the policymakers whom we identify are in a position of power or influence to advance our interests. We hope the following principles will serve as a guide to help our members engage with their own legislators.

  • Think Local. The political imperatives of each jurisdiction are different. From the major employers to the socioeconomic profile, every jurisdiction has its own personality and context that shapes how legislators think about their responsibility to their constituents.
  • Be a Person. Remember that legislators were constituents first. Be sure to uncover the legislator’s background and identity before public life. Knowing their educational background and prior job experience may help you to understand their history of voting patterns.
  • Translate Your Message. Each policymaker develops their own affinities for certain ideologies and thinking. Do not work against yourself. Be careful to frame your message in a way that is both true to your issue and helpful for your policymaker to embrace. Words like “regulatory barriers,” “market driven” and “economic growth” are likely to win the day in a conservative district. If building champions in a progressive state, words like “equity” and “opportunity” are likely to be effective.
  • Be Current. Check out your policymaker’s social media. Research the articles they have written, organizations they are involved with, and the speeches they have given, both on the floor and off.
  • Leverage Your Connections. Consider your personal contacts to determine what relationships you have in common with the policymaker. Don’t forget to leverage those relationships to get an audience and engage them.

Plan for the Unexpected

We are living in one of the most dynamic political situations in recent memory. Don’t be discouraged if your outreach to a policymaker falls short of your goal. Legislative champions don’t grow on trees. In many cases, relationships require trust. Trust can’t happen in isolation. However, these suggestions are provided here to give you a starting point to consider when planning to engage with potential champions in advocacy.

Naturally, the effectiveness of any outreach to potential champions must be balanced against our current political realities. So, it is important to maintain realistic expectations about what champions are likely to achieve. There is more at stake than the outcome of any particular policy issue. When time-tested relationships are the goal, every contact is a win.

The Academy is available to help its members as you begin your own advocacy work. Feel free to reach out to our Director of Public Policy at

View the latest Policy Update here.