Title: Assessing Montana Public Health Association Member Engagement in Legislative Advocacy
Background: Legislative Advocacy is one of the most effective tools that the public health sector has to use, but it is only as good as the people that are willing to engage in the process, and the resources available to them. The Montana Public Health Association has nearly 200 members, and it is unknown what their base level of legislative advocacy power is. Education and engagement of people into this process should be based on their current level of comfort and understanding, and focused on shifting their attitudes towards being willing to engage, while providing relevant resources.
Objectives: This research is focused on establishing a baseline understanding of the capacity that MPHA currently has to be effective in their legislative advocacy efforts by quantifying how active members perceive themselves to be, their likelihood to engage in a variety of ways, and understanding perceived barriers to engagement.
Methods: A survey was developed and piloted to the Eat Right Montana Coalition Membership, as well as to the MPHA Advocacy and Policy Committee. The Executive Director sent out the final survey to the entire MPHA membership, with incentive to win a $50 visa gift card for those who completed the survey. In order to increase survey response, the survey was sent out a second time with one more opportunity for a $50 visa gift card.
Results: Respondents claimed to be relatively inactive (about 63%), but willing to act when called upon by MPHA (76%). Perceived barriers to engagement varied from concern about distance to the Capitol to workplace restrictions. Respondents were overall least comfortable with in person advocacy activities such as providing testimony and most comfortable sending an email to a legislator.
Conclusion: The results of this survey indicate that although the current level of engagement is low, very few members are absolutely opposed to engaging in legislative advocacy, and the majority of members are willing to engage if they are asked. Many of the perceived barriers that members stated can be reduced through education and outreach by MPHA, and engagement can be increased through the gained knowledge of what members are most and least comfortable with. This information will be used in the planning process for the 2016 MPHA annual conference, ensuring that educational sessions and trainings are relevant to member needs. These survey results indicate that MPHA has a large opportunity to increase its organizational capacity to advocate for public health across the state of Montana.
Gift Card Winners: Casey Mohler, Lori Christenson & Angel Johnson- Congratulations once again!