In a democratic society, it is expected that policies be consistent with public preferences in meeting constituent needs (Kraft & Furlong, 2015). However, policymakers are often more engaged with organizational interests, such as health insurance companies or local school districts (Kraft & Furlong, 2015). In fact, public participation in voting has actually decreased in recent decades (Kraft & Furlong, 2015). As such, it is important to consider consumer participation in the policymaking process.
One theory regarding decreased consumer participation in policymaking relates to the general public’s perception of disconnection, as most people do not understand how the government’s decisions impact their daily lives (Kraft & Furlong, 2015). With the availability of Internet technology, social media, and website propaganda, public involvement could increase, especially if policymakers and government officials make a concerted effort in increasing public awareness. In fact, policy blogs, such as this one, have become more popular, and the potential for citizen involvement in policy continues to grow (Kraft & Furlong, 2015). The drawback to this method of increasing citizen involvement is that information from the Internet most frequently does not come from reputable sources and constituents may be exposed to manipulative and misleading material.
In regards to healthcare policy, healthcare leaders are responsible for participating in the policymaking process in order to encourage changes that would support the best interest of the patients they serve. A local representative reported, “If you are aware of an issue regarding healthcare that needs to be changed at the state level, contact your State Rep., State Senator, and/or the Chair of the Health Committee to explain it and try to change it” (Mach, 2015). She also advised healthcare professionals to utilize the media when they don’t receive an appropriate response.
Additionally, healthcare professionals can encourage patients to participate in the policymaking process in the form of advocacy, education, and interest groups. For example, when a new patient is seen for a developmental disability in practice, developmental providers in Arizona consistently refer families to Raising Special Kids, which is focused on increasing parents’ education. One of the most important resources that this program offers is educating parents on the Individualized Education Plan, specifically regarding the federally mandated responsibilities of the school to ensure that children have the best opportunity to succeed in the least restrictive environment (Raising Special Kids, 2015). As a result, parents are more knowledgeable regarding the services their child may be entitled. It’s important to note that individuals are much more likely to participate in policymaking and advocacy when they have a direct connection to the issue at hand. A major issue in Arizona right now is related to public education funding. It can be incredibly difficult to hire and retain qualified teachers passionate about educating children with disabilities. Knowledgeable parents have a greater understanding of the consequences of decreased funding and how this may impact their child, resulting in a sense of urgency and a desire to take action. Nurse practitioners prepared at the doctorate level are uniquely equipped to engage in healthcare policy and inform patients about legislation that could impact or improve their daily lives.
Kraft, M. E., & Furlong, S. R. (2015). Public policy: Politics, analysis, and alternatives (5th Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press.
Mach, S. (2015, April 5). Interview by S. Ellis [Email]. Copy in possession of interviewer.
Raising Special Kids. (2015). About us. Retrieved from http://www.raisingspecialkids.org/about-us/