We the People – The Power of Advocacy!
By Lisa Okamoto, RDH, and Maureen Titus, RDHAP, BS
Co-chairs, CDHA Government Relations Council
- the art or science of governing citizens
- the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing government policy
- c. the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government
Dental hygienists are Change Agents! Through CDHA and the power of advocacy, we are transforming our profession as well as improving the public’s oral health. Regardless of whether you “hate” politics or embrace the challenge, politics is part of the fabric of our society and our profession. Some call it a necessary evil, with the key word being necessary. We, too, have been among those individuals with the traditional aversion to politics…but the reality is that without the California Dental Hygienists’ Association’s involvement in politics and the legislative process, the profession of dental hygiene would not have evolved to the level it is today. Each one of us contributes to this vital important process by being a member of CDHA, and in reaching out to our local legislators. By working together, we have improved and safeguarded our profession.
In California, we are fortunate that our dental hygiene scope of practice is protected by law. Dental hygiene duties were placed into statute in 2002 through the determined efforts of your professional association and the legislators who value our profession. As a result of this legislation, only registered dental hygienists, registered dental hygienists in alternative practice, registered dental hygienists in extended functions and licensed dentists are legally permitted to perform dental hygiene duties, including probing and scaling in California. Of course the law could at some time be amended – but it would be a very difficult undertaking for any entity to convince the California legislature that such a change would be in the best interest of the public.
Dental hygienists in California are regulated by their own professional peers, the Dental Hygiene Committee of California (DHCC). Prior to its formation, California dental hygienists were represented by only one voice and vote on the dentist dominated Dental Board of California. As our profession grew and evolved, a separate regulatory agency under the Department of Consumer Affairs was deemed necessary in order to protect the best interests of the public. The DHCC is comprised of four dental hygienists (two RDH, one dental hygiene educator, one RDH in Extended Function or RDH in Alternative Practice), four public members and one dentist. The DHCC is responsible for dental hygiene licensure, regulation of dental hygiene practice and our education, and enforcement of the laws governing all dental hygienists in California.
Yes, most of us still dislike politics. But isn’t it nice that CDHA gets in the ring on a regular basis for all of us.
Politics can be eminently frustrating when what we view as completely rational and beneficial to the public, as well as our profession, is vehemently opposed by others…especially by those with immense capitol power such as organized dentistry. Politics can also be an excruciatingly and frustratingly slow process. But it is through this deliberate process that progress is made. And the powerful do not always prevail.
Politics definitely requires perseverance, the patience to listen and understand opposing views, even when we cannot agree. Politics calls for finesse in the art of communication to present our view effectively and successfully, and the ability to compromise. Politics requires an understanding of the legislative process and an interest in learning about legislators’ priorities. Politics requires us to do the research required to support our views, while seeking out collaborative support from other stakeholders. Politics requires ongoing efforts to continuously educate others so that they may share our views and build our coalitions.
We are not alone on this journey nor can we make change happen alone! We must work together as a profession to improve oral health for the benefit of the community at large and to advance our profession.
Love it or hate it, all of us play an important part in the political process.
Together, with our colleagues, stakeholders, family, friends and our patients, we can all make a difference in our profession and the lives of the public we treat, through politics.
How you can help?
- Be a member of CDHA!
- Share your knowledge and educate your patients about hygienists and oral health;
- Become involved with local groups who may become our partners in dental and healthcare advocacy groups;
- Meet and develop a relationship with your local legislators;
- Support our political action committee, CalHyPAC
Getting to Know Your Legislator: www.findyourrep.legislator.ca.gov
Develop a Relationship
Sign up for their newsletter
Attend the local meet/greet events
Make the Call
Call the local office; speak with the scheduler
Explain what your issue is to be addressed
Speak with a staff member if the legislator is not available
Take another RDH/RDHAP with You
Bring someone who can also speak to your issue
Appointment time is limited; avoid vague, long-winded monologues
Gather the Facts
Be specific about your concerns
Emphasize the need by giving data or personal examples
Request a Specific Action
Let the legislator know what you expect them to do
Leave Your Card and/or Contact Information
Follow-up with a Thank-You
Go to http://cdha.org/government-relations for more information.