Community Health and Advocacy Talks

Engaging a Community in the Social Determinants of Health, sponsored by the UMN North Memorial Family Medicine Residency Program

Student Reflection on April’s CHAT Discussion

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The following is a guest post by University of Minnesota student Sabrina Peterson sharing her reflections on last month’s CHAT meeting on “Social Movements for Health Advocates:”

1965 civil rights march

The 1965 civil rights movement in the U.S.

Women’s Suffrage – 1920. Civil Rights Movement – 1964, 1965, 1968. Same-sex marriage – 2011, 2012, 2013. It is correct to say these events are pivotal social and political times in the U.S., but it is a disservice to history to place a single date on any one of them. As Amy Finnegan pointed out in her presentation titled Rising Up: A Primer on Social Movements for Health Advocates, all social movements contain similar elements within them; a social movement arrises from (1) a struggle OVER TIME which motivates a (2) GROUP of people to (3) MOBILIZE for collective action in an (4) AIM to change current, and often aggravating, practices, policies, power structures and/or cultural norms. I found Amy’s presentation to be particularly captivating – much like a TED talk, but why?

The answer to this question is straightforward. Because, as an active citizen of the U.S. and a potential physician I am a Helper, an Advocate, an Organizer, or a Rebel – perhaps all of them. I am an obliged participant in social movements that aim to care for and support society’s marginalized groups. Because the scope of a physician’s obligations to her patients is so wide (physical health, mental health, ability to maintain quality of life for herself and for her family), a physician’s call to action is wide, respected, and valued. I am reminded of a recent editorial Dr. Alan Goldbloom, CEO of Children’s Hospital of MN, wrote last fall in the Star Tribune in regards to same-sex marriage and it’s affect on children’s wellbeing:

“I can tell you that when a child is looking for comfort from the pain of stitches or is in a battle with cancer, he or she is as easily soothed by two moms or two dads as by a mom and a dad. Security comes through love and commitment, not sexual orientation.”

What an unassuming, beautiful statement. The quote has credibility, due to the source (Dr. Goldbloom); it has experience based fact; and it’s focus remains clear: the resiliency of sick/injured children depends on the AMOUNT of love and support received from his family – not from STRUCTURE of family. Based on this incident, I would identify Dr. Goldbloom as a social movement advocate.

Amy wasted little time in her presentation on telling us WHY we, as practitioners, care about social movements when she discussed the drowning children metaphor. If we wish to positively affect as many patients as we can – we must investigate the underlying factors of their condition (e.g. lack of insurance) and address it with every resource we have available.

One audience member brought up an interesting question which at this time has yet to be scientifically/statistically addressed: What has the effect of social media been on the propagation of social movements? How has it changed them? Has it helped? These questions are interesting because of the novelty (newness) of social media but I think more interesting because I hypothesize the effect might help some movements while allowing others to falter and stagnate. An important piece to keep in mind while reflecting on this question are the original causes of social movements. Historically, social movements have relied upon the mobilization of crowds that are geographically close to one another which are similarly affected. Twitter, Facebook, and their kind allow groups of shared experience to unite (ethereally), but I hesitate to believe that Facebook posts and Tweets will lend anything beyond a fleeting moment of passionate moral support for one another.

I left the CHAT event refreshed and motivated to exercise my social justice ‘muscle’ — which at this point in my life is working as a grants volunteer at a neighborhood non-profit that works with sexually abused children. While people morally believe in my organization’s cause, often I am told that it isn’t in line with their business’/foundation’s mission. What is the hope for non-profits/causes like this? Is non-profit fundraising a continuum of social activism?”

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