The chosen policy issue is childhood vaccination. In Florida, parents can exempt their children from vaccinations due to religious reasons, which leads to a low rate of vaccinations. As a result, only 38 of Florida’s 67 counties have kindergarten vaccination rates above 95% (Florida Department of Health, 2017). Vaccination rate that exceeds 95% is considered to be important in creating herd immunity, which serves to protect all members of the community from diseases that can be prevented through immunization, even if a small share of the community did not receive their vaccinations (Tabrizi et al., 2014). However, if the share of children without vaccinations remains over 5%, infectious diseases might spread throughout the community and affect population health. Thus, childhood vaccinations represent an important public health issue.
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The DH 681 Form allows refusing mandatory vaccinations based on religious beliefs and is thus the main source of the problem. While temporary and permanent medical exemptions contribute to patients’ health, refusing vaccinations due to religious reasons can be damaging to the community. At the moment, 93% of all childhood vaccination exemptions are due to religious reasons (Florida Department of Health, 2017). The legislator, Frederica S. Wilson, should be contacted with regards to taking action against the DH 681 Form. The legislative visit should aim to introduce the issue and its consequences and propose a comprehensive plan of action. In addition, it would be useful to outline some of the benefits for the community and public health as a result of the plan.
There are several key communication strategies that need to be used by nurses when meeting with policymakers and legislators. First of all, it is crucial for nurses to introduce a detailed and specific plan for addressing the issue. On the one hand, this shows the legislator that there is a solution to the problem, which could increase the legislator’s support of the issue. On the other hand, this also shows that the nurse researched the issue and the previous attempts to address it in other states, and thus the proposed plan is evidence-based.
The message is also an important part of the presentation. As argued by the WNA (2017), an effective message should consist of a proper introduction, the purpose of communication, evidence in support of the issue, and personal experience with the problem. However, it is also crucial to ensure that the message is clear and concise in order to make the meeting more effective. Providing a personal narrative is, perhaps, one of the most important communication tools that can be used in a legislator visit (Oestberg, 2013). As noted by Oestberg (2013), reflecting on the personal experience shows that the issue is real and that it affects the lives of people living in the community. Moreover, it also provides a clear example of the consequences associated with the problem.
Similarly, providing evidence in support of the position is critical to success in communicating with legislators. There are a number of empirical studies that support the use of evidence in articulating a problem during the policymaker visit. For instance, Dodson, Geary, and Brownson (2015) show that data and statistics are the key sources of information searched by legislators. As noted by Dodson et al. (2015), specific data that should be presented includes information “Most (76%) discussed their desire for data and statistics, specifically mentioning data on demographics of populations affected by the disease, prevalence, causes of health issues, disparity information and information to help them understand the severity of an issue” (p. 843). Another study by Dodson et al. (2013) showed a similar result, ranking evidence of scientific effectiveness among the key factors affecting decisions about an intervention or policy. Finally, Brownson, Fielding, and Green (2018) also support the use of evidence in affecting legislators and policymakers. Thus, evidence should be among the key components of the message.
Recommendations for action are also important when planning a legislative visit. The best option would be to look at other states’ initiatives in tackling the problems and analyze critical success factors. Presenting an effective solution to the legislator can improve the chances of obtaining his or her support on the issue.
Effective communication with legislators is critical to nurses as it can help them to take initiatives in health policy matters. Nurses spend more time with patients than most other health professionals, which is why they can provide a unique view of persistent health issues. Reporting their influence and knowledge to the legislator effectively increases their chances of being heard. For example, if the nurse believes that a specific health promotion approach is required to reduce the rates of childhood obesity but fails to justify his or her stand on the issue, the legislator might not believe that the problem is important or that the solution is viable. Thus, a successful presentation is a key to success in nurses’ policy action.
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Overall, preparing for the legislator meeting is important as it improves the chances of presentation success. Nurses should seek to ensure that the plan, message, and recommendations offered to the legislator are guided by research and experience. There are multiple studies that confirm that evidence has a critical influence on legislators’ decision-making with regards to public health matters. Thus, using an evidence-based communication approach could be among the main determinants of success.
Brownson, R. C., Fielding, J. E., & Green, L. W. (2018). Building capacity for evidence-based public health: Reconciling the pulls of practice and the push of research. Annual Review of Public Health, 39(3), 1-27
Dodson, E. A., Geary, N. A., & Brownson, R. C. (2015). State legislators’ sources and use of information: Bridging the gap between research and policy. Health Education Research, 30(6), 840-848.
Dodson, E. A., Stamatakis, K. A., Chalifour, S., Haire-Joshu, D., McBride, T., & Brownson, R. C. (2013). State legislators’ work on public health-related issues: What influences priorities? Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: JPHMP, 19(1), 25-29.
Florida Department of Health. (2017). Kindergarten and seventh grade immunization status report. Web.
Oestberg, F. (2013). Getting involved in policy and politics. Nursing Critical Care, 8(3), 48.
Tabrizi, S. N., Brotherton, J. M., Kaldor, J. M., Skinner, S. R., Liu, B., Bateson, D.,… Malloy, M. (2014). Assessment of herd immunity and cross-protection after a human papillomavirus vaccination programme in Australia: A repeat cross-sectional study. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 14(10), 958-966.
Wisconsin Nurses Association (WNA). (2017). Communicating & connecting with legislators. Web.