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New Year’s resolution: Reach out. Reinforce. Repeat.

Three months ago, I was hearing strong messages from celebrities, politicians and community leaders: VOTE. Personally, I found the momentum exciting. While the 2018 election cycle got a lot of attention, even more important decisions will be made in government in 2019. The two-year legislative session in Wisconsin and the new Congressional session in Washington, D.C., kicking off this month, are where the action’s at.

Whether you’re a patient family, someone who provides care to kids or, like me, both, we have a serious responsibility to kids in Wisconsin. We must proactively communicate with those in power who will make decisions related to the health of children. I want to encourage you to embrace the New Year with a special resolution: connect with your legislators.

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As a pediatric dentist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, I help take care of many kids in foster care. Our team spends many hours navigating complicated consent processes for routine dental procedures. As a foster parent and a dentist, it never occurred to me that this could be fixed by talking about it with legislators. Policymakers may not know what our challenges are unless we tell them. All of us — health care professionals, parents, family members — play a critical role in communicating with government because it is so tightly woven into our lives.

I saw how important it is to speak up one year ago. As part of a larger effort to help improve Wisconsin’s foster care system, a bill was introduced to help children get the best and safest dental care. Last January, I testified in front of a legislative committee to share my experience. The bill passed, along with many other laws that helped improve the life of children in foster care.

Whether you’ve ever communicated directly with your elected officials before or not, they are eager to hear from you. Now is the perfect time to introduce yourself by email and remind them why keeping kids in mind is important to you and your family. The Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin advocacy team has begun an email to get you started. The email will simply let your representatives know that if they ever have questions about your experiences as a parent of a child with special needs or as someone interested in strengthening Medicaid or as a public health nurse practitioner, for instance, you are there for them as a resource and advocate. No political experience is necessary on your end. It takes little time and the dividends are priceless.

The health of children isn’t a political issue. If more can be done to help kids, help be a part of the solution by connecting with the people who make decisions. A quick note to encourage collaboration could go a long way when your elected officials are facing important votes, budget talks and other decisions that will impact your family later. I did, and I can tell you it made a difference.