In July, Health Care For All completed the summer session of “The Health Justice Academy: Building Health Care Power in Our Communities,” a renewed iteration of the Health Care Democracy School.
The Health Justice Academy is a free advocacy training webinar presented as virtual modules aiming at providing tools to navigate the Massachusetts health care system and to advocate for health care rights and health equity in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. The Academy themes were informed by conversations had with community partners since the onset of the pandemic and to maximize the grassroots impact on political developments. The July training sessions took place via Zoom and were geared towards advocates, health care and social service providers, community leaders, and community members who want to have a better understanding of how to advance health justice and protect access to coverage and care for Massachusetts residents.
The four initial modules included the following topics:
1. How to apply for health insurance, eligibility for health insurance programs, and tools to protect access to coverage for Massachusetts residents
2. Immigrant health care rights, impact of the public charge rule, and tools to protect access to coverage and care for immigrant populations in Massachusetts
3. Access to health services during the pandemic and its aftermath, and tools to protect access to oral health, prescription drugs and behavioral health services for Massachusetts consumers
4. How to navigate medical debt, legal resources available for consumers, and tools to protect Massachusetts patients from surprise billing.
Almost 600 people registered for the Academy, with an average live participation of 70 people per module. During each session, participants not only learned about the challenges faced with each health justice theme, but they also learned the most recent information available when changes were happening quickly in response to the changing needs of communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants also learned about the power of storytelling to influence change and the ability for everyone to get involved in health care advocacy. During the 3rd module, the participants even took action in real time by making calls and sending emails to their state congress people to advance an amendment that would help improve access and affordability of prescription medications. Participants came ready to each session with great questions and powerful stories to share.
Health Care For All is now working with a number of volunteers from the first Academy season as the first cohort of the Language Liaison program. These Language Liaisons will help translate and communicate the Academy resources in languages other than English to assist in getting quality information to the many different communities that make up the Commonwealth. They will also be hosting public service announcements in community serving media outlets to ensure that the right information is out there in a way that is best heard by community groups.