Submitted by Davondra Brown, M.Ed., MCHES®, NCHEC Board of Commissioners and Vice-chair, NCHEC Division Board for Professional Development
This year’s Society for Public Health Education’s Advocacy Summit theme was the Opioid Epidemic. The first two days were filled with informational plenaries and breakout sessions structured to address the critical public health issue from a variety of angles. The last day was jam-packed with visits to Congress, both the House and the Senate sides, where health education specialists took the opportunity to educate lawmakers on the effects that opioids have had across the country.
This year’s Advocacy Summit speakers were engaging and informative to say the least. Their personal stories of how opioids impacted their lives were most intriguing. In one particular session, Diane Karczmarczyk and Courtney Gonzales delineated an extremely riveting chronic pain journey that was successfully turned into targeted advocacy. The information they provided was integral in responding to a staffer’s question about opposition to making the accessibility more stringent for those who really need the medication to function daily. It was a prime example of why and how health education specialists educate at all levels of the healthcare system.
One of the presenters, Montrece Ransom with the CDC, spoke so eloquently of the benefits that health education specialists, especially CHES®/MCHES®, bring to the landscape in the health policy sector. She lauded the work of her colleague and fellow credential holder Brianne Yassine, CHES® for expertly applying health education principles to their legal department. I know this intersection personally, and all too well. Between the many positions I have held in both governmental agencies and my private practice as a Sexual Wellness Educator, I have first-hand knowledge of the asset a health education specialists can be to the legal field.
The other thing the Advocacy Summit offered was a plethora of opportunities to not only hear about these intersections but to actually network with those professionals across genres. In addition to law, there was another speaker, Aaron Harvey, who discussed health education and media. Yet another presented on the collaboration of art and public health. To top it off, there was a room filled with other health education professionals from all over the country, working in different disciplines and a range of educational levels. It was a perfect breeding ground for networking and dialogue for beginning new partnerships and budding alliances.
Based on conversations I participated in and overheard, the entire Advocacy Summit was a resounding success. If you were not able to attend this year, give some serious thought to placing it on your professional development calendar in 2020. The Advocacy Summit provides an excellent opportunity for both entry- and advanced-level CECH for CHES® and MCHES® and delves deep into the advocacy Competencies that are essential to the skillset of a well-rounded health education specialist.