Advocacy, Health Policy

Leadership Insights: Creating the Georgia We All Deserve

Aerial shot with the highways in view around Georgia, USA.
cindy zeldin vice president of health policy and government affairs

By Cindy Zeldin, Vice President of Health Policy and Government Affairs

When I was growing up, I always loved to flip to the op-ed page of our local newspaper to soak in various ideas and perspectives on the topics of the day. Absorbing these different viewpoints was not only part of how I learned about the world, but it also helped me understand from a young age the critical role that public policy plays in our lives.

What problems draw public attention and why?  Which potential solutions get discussed and considered? What policy choices are made and by whom? Once decisions are made, how do they get implemented and what is the impact on people’s lives? As I quickly learned, the answers to these questions can be complicated. Sometimes disappointing, even disheartening. But at times they can be downright inspiring. Uplifting. Reaffirming. That’s when you know advocacy played a role.

As we deepen and expand our health policy and public affairs work at Healthcare Georgia Foundation, we will focus broadly on advancing health equity and access to high quality, affordable health care. Recognizing that a range of factors (such as childhood trauma, chronic stress, access to educational and economic opportunities, the availability of safe and stable housing, access to nutritious foods, and reliable transportation) can shape health and wellbeing, we will also look for strategies that address these and other social determinants of health and their root causes.

What’s exciting is that this work can lead us to new types of research, policy development, and advocacy work, and can connect us to unexpected partners to help us imagine a different, better, and healthier future. We know that success requires a long-term strategy including policy and advocacy work alongside durable community engagement, strong partnerships, and a commitment to lasting change.

We also know that changing inequitable systems requires that decision-makers understand the most pressing challenges facing the communities they serve. Thoughtful advocacy can help them walk a day in the lives of people whose experiences are different from their own, review and understand meaningful data that shows how widespread or how deep a need is, and appreciate what works and what doesn’t.

Georgia boasts a vibrant and sophisticated health policy and advocacy community that is deeply invested in shining a light on the most urgent health issues facing our state: uninsured rates among the highest in the nation, rural hospital closures, the most dangerous state to give birth for Black women, and health outcomes for chronic conditions that vary dramatically by zip code. I have seen firsthand the smarts, creativity, ingenuity, and sheer drive that Georgia’s policy and advocacy community leverages to raise awareness of these seemingly intractable challenges and to develop and advocate for meaningful solutions to address them.

As I embark on my new role here at Healthcare Georgia Foundation, I’m eager to work alongside so many of you – and all of the solution-seekers out there – in new and exciting ways as we work together to advance health equity in our state. We are looking forward to listening and learning about your work, sharing funding opportunities, further connecting people and organizations, and collaborating to strengthen and amplify voices. In reflecting on those early questions I asked myself about how public policy gets made, I am hopeful that in the future we can answer those questions together in a way that leaves us inspired, uplifted, and reaffirmed. That’s the difference advocacy can make.

Cindy Zeldin is Vice President of Health Policy and Government Affairs at Healthcare Georgia Foundation.