Join Jennifer Park as she answers questions about her advocacy experiences with You’re the Cure and about what drives her passion for the issues for which she advocates. Read below to learn what all Jennifer has to say about You’re the Cure.
How did you develop interest in advocacy? Also, what drew you to working with AHA and our issues?
During my first year of graduate school I was invited by a professor to attend SOPHE’s Advocacy Summit in Washington D.C. Once I learned about the power of advocating for health programs and public health funding I was “bit by the advocacy bug.” My heart was pounding on my first visit to the hill, and then I became connected with the American Heart Association and attended their state lobby day. After more visits to Jones Street I learned that legislators are people too, so I became more comfortable in conversations and continued to advocate because it was important for my voice to be heard (now that I found my voice).
What issue(s) interest you the most?
My grandfather has suffered multiple heart attacks and has many stints to help his heart work properly. I advocate for the prevention of cardiovascular disease because I don’t want people to suffer from poor health and genetics that create poor health outcomes. I want my grandfather to be around to see my children grow and teach them life lessons like he has taught me. I believe that everyone else should have that same opportunity to live a healthy and long life.
With this, I have a passion to promote physical activity and proper nutrition that affects everyone’s health by the decisions they make. I am interested in an environment that promotes physical activity, healthy food options and a smoke free environment so that we may be disease free.
What is your favorite advocacy experience?
My favorite advocacy experience was when I attended state lobby day for the first time. I really enjoyed getting to know other advocates, learning how our different backgrounds lead in the same direction, and becoming friends with fellow advocates. When you “team up” to go speak with a legislator you’re relying on your fellow advocates to help carry the ball. We now carry it, throw it up with a catch and kick conversations back and forth for a goal win. Having a supportive atmosphere encourages me to help make a difference in health policy.
How do you manage to balance your professional demands and your volunteer role here at AHA?
Everything in life has a balance, and advocating for heart health issues is worth being on our scale. Personally, I know I can take time in the evenings to “Take Legislative Action,” and professionally I have started to carry out AHA’s mission by promoting Heart Health Month and National Walking Day at my job. There was a red sea of outfits on February 1st as all the co-workers supported the Go Red Movement by wearing red to work.
I also like to read emails during my lunch break and take a look at what’s happening on the blog page. Scheduling the monthly conference calls keeps me in line since I know it will happen at the same time each month.
What, in your opinion, makes an effective meeting with a Legislator?
I believe that using supportive statistically significant health facts in a meeting is very important with a legislator. The American Heart Association has up to date and relevant statistics that can support legislative changes to support stroke and heart disease prevention. You then need the personal story that will help paint the picture for the legislator. They need to see the reality of the facts and how the issue is affecting the community. We all have a tie to heart disease and stroke in one way or another, so it’s up to us to help relay that message to those who represent us. We have the power for change.
What is one tip you would share with a new advocate?
Join the movement. We are all affected by health policies, and sharing our voice is important to the process of making policies. I encourage you to join “You’re the Cure” and invite your friends and family members too! Together we can raise our voices up and make a difference in the foods sold at school, making sure your child (or in my case future children) have time to be physically active during the school day, make sure newborns are screened for heart defects, stop teens from smoking by increasing the cigarette tax, stop people from smoking and getting sick from second hand smoke and many more issues that make a difference in our lives each day.
Want to join Jennifer and her fight against heart disease and stroke? Click here to join You’re The Cure.
**Many thanks to Jennifer Park for taking the time to answer our questions about being an advocate here at AHA You’re the Cure**