SHIFT:Building a Patient Advocate Movement
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to represent Planned Parenthood of Southern New England along with three other students at “SHIFT: Building a Patient Advocate Movement”, dedicated to training staff and volunteers in how to engage people though Planned Parenthood’s national Health Center Advocacy Program (HCAP). The conference, which was organized by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) employees, was part of a national tour; the team had recently done trainings in New Mexico, Missouri and South Carolina.
With sixty other Planned Parenthood employees and volunteer leaders, we began the conference with a session called “SHIFTing from a Patient-Centered Movement to a Patient-Led Movement.” There, we were told that 2.4 million individuals receive care at Planned Parenthood every year, but less than 1% of our patient population chooses to fill out a “Share Your Story” form, or takes other action to tell policy makers why they stand with Planned Parenthood.
How can we change this? How can we incite patients to become patient-advocates? Every story is important, and through our stories we become stronger as a populous. Thus, we use storytelling as a tool for organizing; we use stories as a way to stand up and fight back against policy makers that are continuously trying to take away the fundamental services we provide to millions of people.
The best part of the conference was getting to meet people from different Planned Parenthood affiliates. Some individuals were coming from affiliates with established health center advocacy programs, while many others were looking for directions to simply start a program. I realized how lucky I am to coordinate an HCAP program with around twenty volunteers at any given point of time—young people that are eager to make a difference in the Providence area. Planned Parenthood health centers in more rural areas are not as lucky, and they face real issues of accessibility and volunteer recruitment. As a large group, we spoke about our similar objectives and challenges, and then we’d frequently break into our affiliates to focus on our individualized short- and long-term goals. At the end of both days, we regrouped and assessed what we had learned. When asked how she was feeling, one employee from Detroit described the empowerment and strength she had gained from our newfound organizing knowledge—I think we all felt the same.
I’m so grateful to PPSNE for making this opportunity possible as I learned far more than I could possibly share in a blog post. Remember: the next time an HCAP volunteer approaches you in a Planned Parenthood health center and asks if you’re interested in filling out a Story Form, do it! Become a part of the patient advocate movement for reproductive freedom by sharing your story about what Planned Parenthood means to you, or about a time that you received care here. Never forget that your story and your voice matter in our country’s fight for reproductive justice.
And if you’re inspired to join our team of HCAP volunteers contact us today at [email protected]
The author is a Generation Action intern at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.