Health Care for All Through Local Action!
Everybody In, Nobody Out
There are hundreds of ways for your chapter to be active in AMSA's campaign for Universal Health Care. Events can be as simple as inviting lunch-time speakers to your school or as elaborate as organizing a rally or weeklong action campaign in the community. Choose activities that are appropriate for your school and community, but remember that we don't know what we are capable of until we push ourselves.
Lunch-time events are a great way to introduce the topic to many students at one time.
- Speakers: You can always find speakers in your area who are interested in some aspect of UHC. Some potential topics include: the uninsured, different ways of getting to UHC (e.g. single payer), what it's like to wage a grassroots campaign for UHC (you can contact local activist groups), international healthcare systems, Medicare/Medicaid/S-CHIP, and more. The following is a list of potential speakers for your event:
- AMSA national leaders
- Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) - PNHP can provide you with a speaker on single payer healthcare.
- Medical school faculty and local physicians
- National healthcare advocacy groups (e.g. Universal Health Care Action Network)
- Labor groups (e.g. Service Employees International Union, Jobs with Justice) - The labor movement has always been at the forefront of healthcare access campaigns. Labor tends to bring a fiery, passionate voice to the issue, which can really charge medical students up!
- Give a presentation on UHC! - Check out AMSA's UHC powerpoint presentations.
- UHC Issue Forum workshop - this is a very simple activity in which people taken on the roles of different stakeholders in UHC and read statements that represent their viewpoints. The Issue Forum is a low-stress way to introduce UHC to a group of students.
- Grassroots tools workshop - you can do a workshop on how to do a letter-writing campaign, how to lobby, how to write a letter to the editor, etc.
- Panel discussion by uninsured individuals on their experiences being uninsured. It can be hard to find people who are willing to share their story, but if you can find even one, the impact can be tremendous.
- Debates - Debates are a fun, exciting way to stimulate discussion and unveil the pros and cons of an issue related to UHC. Potential topics include: single payer vs. non-single payer, pro-UHC vs. anti-UHC, incrementalism vs. comprehensive reform, is healthcare a right or a privilege?, and government vs. free market solutions for UHC. Debates can be led by medical students, residents/physicians, policy experts, and speakers from AMSA, the AMA, or PNHP.
- SeaCouver Project-in-a-Box - AMSA's annual U.S.-Canada study tour, SeaCouver, includes opportunities for students to interview Canadians and Americans about their perceptions of the U.S. and Canadian healthcare systems. This footage was videotaped and compiled into a 20-minute DVD that you can show at your school! AMSA has put together a project-in-a-box that contains all the information you need to have a successful showing of the video at your school, including discussion questions and handouts.
- Letter Writing Campaign - set up a table and have people sign letters advocating for universal healthcare! Or, you can have a lunchtime talk on the issue and close it with a letter writing campaign. Writing a letter to preserve Medicaid is always an easy way to speak out on healthcare access issues. AMSA's Legislative Action Center provides Congressional addresses and emails and sample letters to legislators.
- Call-in Day - Similar to the letter-writing campaign, but with less paper! Pick an issue, pick a date, and have people at your school flood Congress with calls all in one day. AMSA's Legislative Action Center provides Congressional phone numbers.
- Local or State Lobby Day - Local and state elected officials love to meet medical students and hear their opinions, as it is rare for them to hear from us.
- Candelight vigil for the uninsured - AMSA has historically used Candlelight Vigils as a powerful way to raise awareness about the uninsured. Get your entire campus, local community groups, and elected officials involved. This is a great way to get exciting media coverage too!
- Rally for UHC - Rallies help pump life into the Universal Health Care campaign. They are a fantastic way to raise awareness, energize students, and get media attention. Make sure this is a collaborative effort between your chapter and community groups! To find out how to do a rally, use the tips contained in the Candelight Vigil Guide and adapt them to a rally.
- Letter to the Editor - Letters to the editor are a great way to express your viewpoint about UHC, especially if they are timely and follow a particular story or newspaper item.
- Get involved in national campaigns like Covering Kids and Families (enrolling eligible children into S-CHIP) and Covering the Uninsured Week. Visit www.coveringkidsandfamilies.org and www.covertheuninsuredweek.org.
For a great resource on how to conduct all of these types of events, visit AMSA's Activism Toolbox.
Take the Issue Into Hospitals & Your Community
Greater awareness of the problem and solutions can be brought about by taking the issue of health care reform into the hospitals and student-clinics we go to everyday.
- Wear a "Health Care for All!" button on your white coat.
- Talk to residents and attendings about the problem and hear their opinions.
- Medical students are always asked to make presentations - make a presentation about the problem of uninsurance and relate it to your patients. You will be amazed at the in-depth discussions that can come out of a single medical student's presentation!
Be Creative and Have Fun!
Remember, you've have to have fun while you're organizing, because otherwise you're not going to be able to mobilize others. Here are some examples of successful, fun activities in the past:
- Organizing a community meeting between free clinic patients and the CEO of the hospital
- Organizing a "Walk/Run to Cover Everyone!"
- Writing music, poetry, or spoken word about UHC.
- Students at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine created a price reference card for third year medical students listing the cost of commonly used drugs and tests, in an attempt to educate students about how much money health care costs to their patients.
- Georgetown medical students posed as uninsured individuals and called DC physicians listed in the Yellow pages to see how hard it is to get an appointment if you're uninsured.