Policymakers craft laws and physicians treat patients and never the twain shall meet, or so it sometimes seems. But they should meet and even work together, argues Lisa Chamberlain, MD, in a recent perspective, because when they do, patients benefit.
Chamberlain, a pediatrician, admits that she was once like many physicians: "The policy arena was a foreign land, complete with its own calendar and language."
Then, she started researching issues surrounding access to care for children in California. That involved regular trips to Sacramento, where she worked on improving California Children's Services, a safety-net program that helps families with seriously ill children.
And at the same time, she was caring for a little girl in East Palo Alto named Maria (not her real name), who was premature and born with a heart murmur. Unable to make it to work because she was caring for her daughter, Maria's mom lost her job, and the family needed support more than ever. While in Sacramento, Chamberlain shared Maria's story, which was used to shape policy, helping other children and families statewide. She writes:
The programs that support the most vulnerable kids like Maria cannot sustain significant changes without risking the well-being of children. Moreover, health policy that works well in communities cannot be created in a vacuum. Through my experience, I realized that bringing the voices, experiences and patient stories to the policymaking arena leads to policy shifts that have fewer unintended consequences. It is up to us all to engage with our dedicated policymakers to protect what is working while improving the systems so many depend upon. We need this engagement now more than ever.
And Maria? She's doing well. She's in elementary school and her mom is back at work.
Previously: An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory: Med student encourages community engagement, Stanford med student helps turn pediatrics waiting room into a center for school-readiness and Giving every child a fair shot: Public health leader Michael Lu discusses federal initiatives at Childx conference
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