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Leadership and Policy Experience

2017 Medicaid Policy Brief (238KB) [download]
Engaging LEND Trainees in a Leadership and Policy Experience (1,594KB) [download]

Briefly describe the activity and its purpose.

All trainees in the New Hampshire-Maine LEND program complete a Leadership and Policy Experience during the Spring semester. This includes active participation in the following activities:

  • Didactic training through an eight-week public policy module that covers Maternal and Child Health (MCH), Title V, and public health systems and policy. They receive instruction on and have opportunities to practice issue framing, policy analysis, persuasive communication, and legislative visits. 
  • Three Interdisciplinary Leadership Intensive (ILI) sessions: (a) community organizing, (b) Disability Policy Seminar* and (c) Capstone Poster presentations.
  • A Policy Analysis and Policy Brief Assignment. The cohort is separated into eight groups that look at a different aspect of the same policy issue; they do their own research but work together to develop a single policy brief** through negotiation, consensus building, and prioritization. 

* Before traveling to Washington for the conference, there is a significant amount of practice and coordinated preparation for presenting the policy brief to Members of Congress and staffers during Capitol Hill visits (every trainee is expected to speak at least once). They participate in mock visits during the AUCD Trainee Policy Summit and debrief the entire experience in subsequent Friday sessions.

** A sample policy brief on Medicaid from 2017 is included as an attachment to this strategy.  A poster from the 2017 AUCD Conference that outlines the Leadership and Policy Experience in more detail is also attached.

What are the expected learning outcomes for trainees?

As a result of the eight-week public policy module, trainees will:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the history and structure of MCH programs serving children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of MCH core values and strategic objectives, including a focus on prevention, population health, cultural competence, family-centered and community-based systems of services, elimination of health disparities, and evidence-based practice.
  • Conduct a critical analysis of public policies related to a key issue affecting the delivery of services for children and youth with special health care needs and their families, integrating key findings from the policy analysis into a cohesive and concise policy brief.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of specific tools related to community organizing and the role community organizing plays in advocacy, as well as educate state legislators on key issues impacting the delivery of services for children and youth with special health care needs and their families.  

It is also anticipated that trainees will benefit from all related activities in the following ways:

  • Seeing clearer connections between their clinical/research work and policy.
  • Better understanding of their responsibility to engage in the democratic process.

Briefly describe the positive impacts this activity has had on trainees.

Trainees are so energized after DPS and the Capitol Hill visits; they've seen the impact of their efforts, the growth in themselves, and feel more empowered/knowledgeable. The process of developing a single policy brief is also great practice for how to effectively participate in a coalition. As a result of the relationships they've built, some former trainees have actually been sought out to serve on state committees or as legislative liaisons. Others have felt compelled to speak in public forums about the importance of existing or proposed programs. One former family discipline trainee shared that doing so was, "One of my prouder moments. It was amazing to go down (to the state legislature) and share my story and feel like it made an impact. People kept telling me that I handled the press conference and the testimony like a pro, and I kept saying that after going to DC with LEND, this was easy." She also commented that the LEND experience helped build her self-confidence.

Briefly describe any lessons learned or challenges associated with implementing this activity.

This series of activities requires commitment on the part of faculty to keep up with relevant policy issues at the local, state, and federal levels. The program formed a Policy Team that initially developed learning objectives and activities for the Leadership and Policy Experience; they continue to meet by phone each December to consider the current policy landscape and potential issues to focus on for that year. We've also learned that it can be challenging to engage trainees that fall along a spectrum of awareness and/or interest in policy issues, but the key to doing it well is building a foundation for engagement early in the training year.

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