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Connecting over health care, food and beer, at Amsterdam Bar & Hall
The evening began with a show of hands. Dr. Elizabeth Frost, co-chair of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) Minnesota, asked: How many people are happy with the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act? Do you think it’s a step in the right direction? Are you angry about the decision?
The 30-plus people gathered at Amsterdam Bar and Hall for a New Normal 2012: Get Connected!community meeting on July 18, mostly supported the Affordable Care Act as 'a step in the right direction', though perhaps not an ideal solution. This finding proved an appropriate lead-in to presentations on how to connect more effectively with others in advocating for universal single-payer health care.
Establishing an emotional connection
Dr. Sarah Kesler, one of the evening’s main presenters, spoke on behalf of PNHP. She stressed that progressives must dispense with the notion that if you just present the facts, people will come around and support your position. Kesler, who has worked in intensive care units, community clinics, and overseas with refugees through Doctors without Borders, argued it’s important to share personal stories, alongside facts. She modeled this approach by interspersing stories from the field with compelling facts about the U.S. health care system and how it stacks up against health care systems in other countries.
Facts are what we have, agreed David Zeller, field director for Health Care for All Minnesota (HCAMn). HCAMn's goal, he said, is to collect 10 stories from each of the state’s 134 legislative districts, preferably on video, but also in written or audio form, to share with legislators. Minnesotans are encouraged to share their stories through HCAMn’s website.
Critics of the Affordable Care Act
Both PNHP and HCAMn are critical of the Affordable Care Act. HCAMn is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing comprehensive, single-payer health care through advocacy, education, lobbying, and community organizing. PNHP Minnesota is the state chapter of a nonprofit research and education organization, whose membership is comprised of 18,000 physicians, medical students, and health professionals who support single-payer national health insurance.
In response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision, PNHP issued a statement, which read in part: “Instead of eliminating the root of the problem—the profit-driven, private health insurance industry—this costly new legislation will enrich and further entrench these firms. The bill would require millions of Americans to buy private insurers’ defective products, and turn over to them vast amounts of public money.”
Using new media tools to share stories with larger audiences
New media tools allow people to share their stories with much larger audiences, said Marcos Lopez-Carlson, neighborhood engagement coordinator for the Twin Cities Media Alliance, the nonprofit that operates the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He focused his presentation on Twitter, the tool attendees were most interested in learning about.
What distinguishes Twitter, Lopez-Carlson said, is its capacity to help form networks of interest, based on ideas. Users are able to follow anyone or any idea they like, and it’s as easy as sending a text message. He demonstrated how to find people and groups by searching for an issue. He also showed several tweets from attendees and organizers. One participant offered: “I couldn’t stay long, but it’s exciting to think of a new group of people adding their voices to the campaign.”
YouTube and other video sharing sites were described as other valuable tools for health care reform advocates, another potentially powerful way to share stories and create networks of storytellers.
Get connected on health care reform and other issues
Get Connected! community meetings are part of a larger project of the Twin Cities Media Alliance and Daily Planet. With support from the Bush Foundation, each Get Connected! event is planned and co-hosted with nonprofit organizations that work on one of six issue areas: education, work, health care, immigration, transportation, and the environment.
(c) 2012 Bruce Johansen