Advocacy, Health Policy

Supporting Systems Change for a More Equitable Georgia

by Sarah Phillips, Director of Policy Strategies

I have spent most of my career thus far “under the Gold Dome” at the Georgia Capitol.

What first drew me into this work was the excitement of policy change happening right before our eyes and in real time. Legislators and advocates working shoulder-to-shoulder until 11:59 p.m. on the last day of the state legislative session, when the final bang of the gavel causes lawmakers to send reams of paper fluttering through the air in the House and Senate Chambers. It’s enough to keep one fired up, even throughout the “long game” of advocating for policy change. However, what has kept me engaged in this work—leading up to and including my current role here at Georgia Health Initiative—is the interconnectedness of our state’s advocacy community.

Attending the 28th Annual Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health forum with the Georgia Health Initiative team.

Among our four organizational values, the one that resonates most with me is “trust.” Trust strengthens our resilience as we pursue transformative systems change through advocacy, relying on each other to continue forward regardless of unexpected setbacks or obstacles. At Georgia Health Initiative, we strive to be a trusted partner — building and nurturing meaningful relationships with advocates, policymakers, thought leaders, and other partners throughout the state. We also strive to widen our circles to include perhaps less “traditional partners” whose on-the-ground experience and perspectives are essential for broad systems change.

In my role as Director of Policy Strategies, I’m deepening my knowledge of the Georgia health policy landscape and cultivating relationships with those who are a part of this shared ecosystem. Doing so allows us to pinpoint the unique role helpful for our organization to play in advancing health equity, which may include commissioning and releasing timely, quality research. We are mindful and strategic in the policy analysis that we commission and the information we disseminate. We know that contributing accurate and timely data can enhance the understanding of our deeply complex health care and coverage delivery systems across multiple audiences.

Much like advocates and legislators during session, we strive to work shoulder-to-shoulder with any partner who shares our vision for a healthier Georgia. All of us at Georgia Health Initiative are committed to ongoing critical conversations, serving as a bridge for groups across sectors doing important and impactful work. We are convening partners to share knowledge and uncover information gaps that we perhaps can help fill. As the Initiative’s team continues to grow, we’ve increased our capacity to ensure that our own health policy and government affairs efforts are strategically aligned with the needs of the everchanging Georgia health policy landscape.

At Georgia Health Initiative, we accept that advocacy can be messy. Nonlinear. Rarely quantifiable and often unpredictable. But advocacy is key to robust systems-level change. We cannot improve health outcomes for all Georgians without it. This is why we invest in advocacy and trust the expertise, experience, and insights of our partners to shape health policy that works for Georgia’s vibrant and diverse communities. My prior experiences have equipped me well for my new role here at the Initiative. I always keep in mind the importance of trust and the indispensable value of supporting and investing in the field of advocacy. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to continue working alongside partners, working toward improved health for all Georgians.