« March 2014 Issue

New Frontiers for Children’s Advocacy: Introducing the Alliance for Children’s Health

Advocates for children’s health played an instrumental role in efforts to win passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), hailing the law as a vital opportunity to move the needle further on universal health coverage for children and families. The ACA works alongside the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid to provide robust coverage for children and families. In 2012, CHIP insured 8 million children nationally. As the ACA is implemented, CHIP is needed to ensure continuing coverage for children. Unfortunately, the future of CHIP is uncertain. CHIP funding expires in 2015, and Congressional reauthorization is required for the program to continue. As a result, advocates are already laying the groundwork for what they expect will be a challenging campaign to reauthorize this very successful program.

As it has in the past, Community Catalyst will play an active role in advocacy efforts to protect CHIP, in addition to strengthening children’s health coverage through the ACA and other issues. And now, that work has been bolstered by an anonymous $250,000 grant to expand the reach of Community Catalyst’s children’s health work beyond the New England states. As part of an expansion project called the Alliance for Children’s Health, Community Catalyst is now working in Arizona, Ohio and Virginia. The opportunity is particularly timely given the looming challenges ahead.  

The new project builds on a successful advocacy model Community Catalyst developed as part of its New England Alliance for Children’s Health (NEACH) project, which launched in 2006. One of NEACH’s goals was to build strong coalitions among a variety of stakeholders – business, advocacy and provider groups – in each of the six New England states to work together to protect the CHIP program and ensure its 2009 reauthorization. The focus of that work later broadened to seeking expanded coverage for children through the 2010 Affordable Care Act, as well as issues related to the quality of children’s care and health issues such as childhood obesity.

“Our primary goal is to ensure children’s advocates have a strong voice on state and federal health issues,” said Eva Stahl, director of NEACH and the new Alliance for Children’s Health. “Children’s advocacy groups are often multi-issue so it’s particularly challenging to cover every issue. We provide arms and legs on the policy side but also work to build advocates’ capacity in organizing, coalition building, communications and fundraising, which all contribute to winning advocacy campaigns. And our robust learning community allows advocates to share best practices and information across state lines so they can learn and add their voices to the national dialogue.”

In addition to protecting and reauthorizing CHIP, key policy goals for the project include ensuring that states are leveraging the ACA to improve children’s coverage through enhanced enrollment and better access to pediatric dental and vision benefits, and expanding and protecting Medicaid. On the organizing side, there will be a strong emphasis on building diverse coalitions that reflect the diversity of the community and rapidly changing demographics.

“The Alliance for Children’s Health nationalizes our children’s work and makes it accessible and relevant to other states,” said Stahl. “In addition to our New England-focused work, we will develop a portfolio of products relevant to our new states and useful to a larger audience.

“This is exciting progress for our children’s work. It allows us to insert ourselves into the broader conversation with other national groups working on these issues, adding value by sharing what’s happening on the ground in the states and by elevating state concerns with federal policymakers,” Stahl added. 

-- Kathy Melley, communications director

O N   T H E   W I R E

Community Catalyst and 300 state and local groups sent a letter urging Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to ensure all consumers who have made a good faith effort to get covered can enroll in coverage. Last week HHS announced anyone who is “in line” for coverage on March 31 will be able to enroll.

Community Catalyst welcomed Dan McGrath, Executive Director of TakeAction Minnesota, as the newest member of our board of directors.

Community Catalyst Board member Karen Hicks, project manager for Covering New Hampshire, was quoted in an NPR story on ACA enrollment in New Hampshire.

Edna and Sally’s story, a video created by Voices for Better Health, was featured on The Huffington Post during Black History Month.

The Association of Health Care Journalists took note of Dental Access Project Director David Jordan and other oral health advocates’ efforts to expand access to care.

Join us in welcoming new staff members: Alberto Gonzalez, Carol Regan, Candice Singer and Natasha Tyagi.

Support Our Work: