This guest post is written by Aldon Hynes
Last year I was at a discussion about health equity at the Connecticut Health Foundation and mentioned that the prior year, I had received a $26,000 grant from the State to discuss health equity issues. I explained how the program works and promised to provide more details when the next grant cycle came around.
Well, here we are. People are starting to apply for the 2014 grants and I want to make sure that my fellow health equity advocates are well informed about the program and how they can apply.
I should also note, upfront, that this program is not specifically aimed at health equity issues. It’s the Citizens’ Election Program. Its core goal is to limit the corrosive effects of money in politics and empower citizens to be more involved in electoral politics.
It can be used to advocate for many issues, some may make access to quality health care more equitable, others could actually create new hurdles in the fight for health equity.
The key criteria in receiving the grant is showing a sufficient level of community support, and the grant amounts can vary from $10,000 to $3,000,000.
In my case, I ran for State Representative and qualified for a Citizens’ Election Program grant of $26,000. I could use those funds to talk about whatever issues were most important to me, so I spoke regularly about health equity. As a candidate for state office with CEP funding, I had a soapbox to stand on to make my voice heard.
I probably wouldn’t have even considered running for office if it wasn’t for the Citizens’ Election Program. If I had gotten elected, I would have been able to introduce and influence legislation around issues of health equity.
Just by being a candidate, people from around the district wanted to know my thoughts on important issues. Instead of having to pursue news organizations to get them to write about health equity issues, they started calling me up. Instead of trying to get on the agenda of various civic organizations to talk about health equity, I had civic organizations calling me up asking me to come speak about the issues.
The funding from the Citizens’ Election Program allowed me to send out mailings talking about health equity. It enabled me to talk about issues in online and print advertisements.
Now the first question I often get about running for office is, did I win? I normally reply that I won. I didn’t get elected, but I won. To the quizzical looks I explain that I won by making and taking the opportunity to talk about important issues like health equity. I won by helping others become more involved in their state government.
If you read this blog post and become a more vocal advocate for health equity in Connecticut electoral politics and the legislative processes, you will even further broaden my victory. You can find out more about the Citizens’ Election Program here.
You might even consider running of office yourself or helping a friend do so. It is a great way to broaden the discussions about health equity and many other important issues facing our state.
Aldon Hynes is a social media manager at the Community Health Center, Inc. He has been using media socially since he shared his coloring books in kindergarten. Since then, he has helped politicians, non-profits, corporations and others use online social media tell their story online. Connect with Aldon on Twitter.
Image courtesy of Aldon Hynes