Answers to Your Questions and Most Requested Resources
How do I start to advocate?
There are many places to start and many ways to advocate effectively.
If you learned about an issue or problem from someone or online, they may have given you an action step. If you need more information on an action step, our Tools may have what you need.
If you are really busy and can’t get deeply involved, go to If You Only Have Five Minutes.
If you have an issue but are new to public policy and not sure how to begin, try our Decision Tree. The Tree takes you through the steps to determine where accountability and remedies for your issue lie, and then refers you to the tools you can use to make change happen.
If it’s a state issue, the best place to begin is calling your legislator or their aide. They can let you know if it’s on their radar screen already, get your input, and put you in touch with others who are active on the issue. If not, it’s a perfect place to begin a discussion of why they should be paying attention and what can be done. To find your legislator, go to Contacting your legislator.
If you are interested in getting involved but don’t have a specific issue, check out Coalitions and Collaboration.
If you are a seasoned advocate, you can bypass the information you already know and go straight to Tools.
How can I best support efforts using my skills?
First, use your voice and share your perspective. You are unique, even if yours is a popular issue. If you are comfortable writing for the media, send a letter to the editor or op-ed. If you can get to Hartford, set up a meeting with legislators. If you can’t get to Hartford, considering making a call, submitting written testimony on a bill or writing a letter to a policymaker. If you have friends, organize a testimony or letter writing session. Get creative – you have much to contribute. Very few people take the time, so your voice will be important.
Can we make a difference? What has changed as result of advocacy?
Advocacy is extremely effective, but not always quick. Never underestimate your credibility as an independent consumer advocate – you are extremely powerful. Two determined advocates led the charge to remove private insurers from Connecticut’s Medicaid program. It took twelve long years; the insurance industry is very strong in Connecticut. But that change when finally implemented saved the state $2.25 billion in seven years, expanded the number of participating providers, and improved the quality of healthcare for about 850,000 people. Not everything will be this hard or take this long, but independent advocates are the special sauce that keeps government working for the people.
It's hard, takes too much time, and it’s intimidating.
It can seem that way from outside, but it’s not usually true. If you don’t have time, check out If you only have five minutes. This toolbox should make the process easier to understand and ensure you don’t waste your time. Don’t be intimidated – independent advocates are well-respected because you are the experts on your community and your life. Unlike paid lobbyists, you have no conflicting interests.
What are some ways I can participate with a busy schedule?
There are lots of ways to help that are flexible and require little time. See If you only have 5 mintues. You can make a call, write a letter or email, or write an op-ed for starters. See Tools for easy primers on those ideas.
How do I learn about health policies that directly impact my family and my community?
Since we first created this Toolbox in 2000, available information has exploded. You can search the top right hand corner of our site’s homepage for a start. Internet searches Research and reaching out to your legislator are also great ways to start.
What if I don’t have the finances to advocate?
It doesn’t take a lot of funding to be an effective advocate. The most effective advocacy is free. If you have a phone, you can call their office to voice your opinion and even arrange a meeting with your legislator in your community. If you have a computer or a smart phone, you can send an email or write a letter to the editor. Check out If you only have 5 minutes for more ideas.
Where can I get access to information on what is happening?
This can be a challenge, especially as more news sites are requiring subscriptions. Newsletters are one of the best ways to keep up on what is happening. You can join ours here. Sign up for your legislators’ newsletters on their websites. To find other groups, go to Coalitions and Collaboration. If you find a bill from a prior year that addresses your issue, check out who testified on it and reach out to them. There are still many free news outlets in Connecticut. Click here for a resource list. There are national newsletters focused on health – check Resources for a list.
Can I advocate if it’s hard for me to get to Hartford?
Absolutely. A great deal of advocacy happens beyond the Capitol and Legislative Office Building. Many effective advocates have travel challenges including work, childcare, finding transportation, medical or mental health barriers. Luckily more advocacy options are now online. Committees take written testimony on bills by email, more policy meetings have a call-in option, CT-N allows the public to watch meetings and sessions online both live and recorded, and advocates have always met with legislators in the district. Often coalitions, schools or other groups organize trips to Hartford, with transportation and other support, for their advocates. Click here to learn about joining Coalitions.
The process is very intimidating.
It doesn’t need to be. Our survey found that policymakers, especially elected officials, are eager to hear real-world voices. They trust you more than professional lobbyists. It can be hard to find someone to champion your issue, but it’s worth taking the time to create solid, trusted relationships.
Can students advocate?
Absolutely. Students are among the most persuasive advocates at the Capitol. Even if you can’t vote yet, or you don’t vote in Connecticut – your voice matters. Make sure you have your facts straight. Students often don’t have control over their schedules, but many have found that testimony writing sessions, submitting by email, or legislative calling sessions are very effective. Politicians almost always accept invitations to speak with a student organization or group about an important issue. In 2020 students organized dozens of testimonies on vaccine requirements for public school attendance and healthcare coverage for immigrants.
How can I find out more about how Connecticut’s health system works?
Great question. You can start with our Health Policy class resources. It includes slides, readings and assignments from an undergraduate Public Health course in Health Policy. Joining our newsletter and others will help you stay informed. There is much more on our Resources drop down from our homepage.
How can I know what’s happening behind closed doors in policy circles?
It’s important to develop relationships with policymakers to find your Champions. It’s easier than you think. They want to get to know people like you who are affected by policies so they can contact you when an idea is proposed or an opportunity (or threat) comes from outside. You are the experts on how things work in the real world. You will think of things they and their staff never thought of.
Where can I get help explaining my issue?
Great question. Too often we assume that people, even policymakers, understand concepts we live with every day. We also have to understand that policymakers, like the rest of us, have limited time and are overwhelmed with input. Be brief, understandable and don’t assume the reader has your background. Go to our pages on Effective Communication and Fact Sheets. You can also get ideas and help from advocacy organizations and their materials.