A Beginner's Guide to Becoming Politically Engaged

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A Beginner's Guide to Becoming Politically Engaged

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My engagement in politics was not founded in a traditional way with an interest of history and/or journalism. With the election of 2016, I observed the important role of constituents and advocates in shaping policy and electing government officials. This inspired me to become more involved and actively participate in decisions that affect my personal and professional life. So, with a basic Schoolhouse Rock! education, I set out to learn all that I could about health care and health policy. Getting involved in the political process and being politically informed seems like a daunting task, but today it is easier than ever. Below, I have listed how I began my political awakening and what you can do to get involved.

  1. Read the news! The best way to become informed is to start reading the news from a variety of sources. I subscribe to the New York Times ($1 a week for students) and regularly check headlines from the Wall Street Journal, Politico, and The Hill. Local newspapers are the best place to seek out information about what is going on in your city and state.
    Newsletters I subscribe to:
    1. OT Practice Pulse: Biweekly e-newsletter for AOTA members.
    2. AOTA Alerts: Monthly AOTA Alerts e-newsletter.
    3. VoxCare: Daily newsletter explaining “the day’s most important health care news – from the Hill to the White House to policy land.” Primarily written by Sarah Kliff.
    4. Wake Up to Politics: Written by Gabe Fleisher, sent out every morning. A comprehensive and non-partisan rundown of the news that is a quick read. 

  2. Regularly Check the AOTA Advocacy & Policy page.The AOTA Public Affairs Division (State Affairs and Health Policy, Federal Affairs, and Regulatory Affairs) support occupational therapy through policy development and advocacy on behalf of the AOTA and occupational therapy practitioners.   
    1. The Legislative Action Center (LAC) has easy ways for AOTA members to contact representatives in addition to current legislation, key votes, and Capitol Hill basics. Contacting your Representatives through the Action Center has a HUGE impact and it is important for congressmen/women to see what is important to their constituents. One of these letters was even read on the Senate floor by Senator Elizabeth Warren!
    2. Subscribe to the Action Network: Receive emails from AOTA about when it is important to contact your representatives.

  3. Check out the OT Connections.  OT Connections is a social network just for OTs! There are forums, blogs, groups, and galleries that discuss all things OT. AOTA staff regularly post to the AOTA Blogs. The AOTA Federal Policy, Health Care Reform, and AOTA State Policy blogs are all good places to look for well-researched articles on the latest in healthcare news as it relates to OT. After creating your account, you can subscribe to these blogs and receive an email any time there is a new post. 

  4. Be active on Twitter.Twitter is one of the easiest ways to stay up to date on the latest headlines and what your Representatives are doing.
    1. Following your representatives and the House and Senateaccounts are good ways to stay current on what is happening on the federal level (this applies on the state level as well).
      • Everyone has 1 Congressperson and 2 Senators at the federal level. Find them on AOTA’s LAC by typing in your zip code.
    2. AOTA’s Teams are very active on Twitter, so follow them for the latest OT related news:
    3. Organizations such as Kaiser Family Foundation, Health Affairs,  NYT Health, Politico, American Medical Association, etc., are good accounts to follow for the latest health care news.
    4. After following accounts, you can turn on notifications for specific accounts. Your phone will then provide push notification for all tweets from that account. I have notifications turned on for my representatives and AOTA accounts. This helps ensure I don’t miss any tweets from the accounts that are important to me. 

  5. Listen to podcasts. There are podcasts for almost every interest area and most viewpoints! Podcasts are an easy way to get caught up on the news while commuting or doing chores. All of these podcasts are available at the provided links as well as Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, and other platforms.
    My personal favorites are listed below (this is not an exhaustive list):
    1. The Daily by The New York Times: Hosted by Michael Barbaro. 20 minutes, 5 days a week. This is my favorite podcast to listen to. They always have engaging interviews and discussions.
    2. The New Washington by The New York Times: Hosted by Michael Barbaro and colleagues. 20 minutes every Saturday. NYT journalists interview and discuss important people on The Hill. Previous interviews have included: Rex Tillerson, Mitch McConnell, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Marco Rubio, Ty Cobb, etc.
    3. Decode DC: Hosted by Jimmy Williams, a former Hill staffer. 30 minutes with interesting interviews discussing current events and the mysteries behind DC operations.
    4. KCRW’s Left, Right & Center: Hosted by Josh Barro, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, and Rich Lowry. “KCRW’s weekly confrontation over politics, policy and popular culture.”

 

The important part is to be a sponge. Soak up as much news as you can. Be aware of the politics surrounding your practice and your future. The policies written today will impact you and your practice for the rest of your life. Get involved and speak out! Your voice matters. If you don’t Take Action and advocate for occupational therapy, who will?  

 

And now, let’s hear from the audience!

What do you do to follow the news and advocate for OT? Please share your favorite podcasts, twitter profiles, blogs, or other helpful tips in the comments below!

 

 

Clarice Miller is a Federal Affairs Fieldwork Student at AOTA with the Federal Affairs Team. She is an MSOT student from Columbia University.

  • This is a very helpful article. I just completed my doctorate in OT, and I am future OTR. OT-Advocacy is something I have always adored and it was the only committee that I first joined in my State Association. This article is very helpful and informative. Many things I was not able to access but, this one helped me guide in a correct direction. So thank you for sharing all these information.

    To your question, I do Twitter more regularly for professional purposes.  

  • Hi ,

    Another great podcast is What The Health by Kaiser Health News! It has all of my favorite health reporters on it and it covers the latest health news and policy for that week. They are on Google Play and Apple Podcasts. See Soundcloud link below for free access to all of their shows!

    soundcloud.com/user-719970294

    Glad you found the article helpful! I also joined the advocacy group with my State Association. Best of luck on your OTR!