Catalyst - Fall 2020 Vol 3 No 1 | Page 12

An Interview With EmpowerHealth Cohort One Participant: Laura Colbert Georgians for a Healthy Future How has COVID-19 impacted the work that you all do at Georgians for a Healthy Future? A lot of your activity is related to community outreach and coalition building, so how has it affected you all? It’s both impacted how we do what we do, and then also, of course, the issues about which we advocate. Two of the primary things that we do are consumer education and outreach, and coalition building. Our coalition building work has largely and smoothly transitioned to online – as advocates, we frequently are convening groups from different parts of the state or within different offices, so we have done phone and (less often) video calls, but now have moved to mostly video calls with our coalitions. With consumer outreach, that’s probably where the biggest shift has been. and we’re doing a lot of learning - mostly around what platforms are user friendly, accessible, and work for the folks that we’re trying to reach. We’ve had our first Facebook Live event in April-- we had never done one of those before-- about a new report we released about Medicaid expansion. There’s been a lot of experimentation and trying to get up to speed on what platforms are available, and how they can be best used to reach the most people and the right populations of people. What are some of the biggest struggles that you all have had with COVID-19, whether it’s the way that you change the way that you work, or how it impacts the policies that you watch? It’s definitely impacted the actual issues we’re working on, and the way that we work internally. On the issues, because we’re a healthcare advocacy organization, many of our issues remain relevant and there’s an added urgency to them in this moment. For example, Medicaid expansion is perhaps more needed now than it has been in the past because so many folks are losing their job-based health insurance as a result of the pandemic. And, of course, lots of low-income folks don’t have access to regular healthcare without insurance. It’s important, during the spread of COVID, for everyone to have coverage. That issue has definitely become more urgent in the face of a pandemic and in the face of great job losses. In addition to that, of course, we’ve had to get up to speed on what the state has been doing to respond to COVID, and then what else is needed and the policy implications of that. We’ve had to develop a whole new policy platform that we didn’t have before, and had to do it super quickly. Many of our partner groups have had the same learning curve, and so we’ve all tried to do it together as much as possible. We rely on coalition building all the time, but it’s definitely forced our coalitions to really come together and do collective work in this moment, which maybe is a bright spot of all this. Internally, our team made a relatively smooth transition to home-based work. We already did, as needed, work from home days for everyone, so we had some practice. Because we’re a small team, we’re relatively nimble, so I think that made things a little bit easier. All of a sudden, there are different logistics to worry about; like do we have the right technology subscriptions? Are our computers backing up remotely when they’re not in the office with our server? As a manager, I’m both trying to balance the stress and emotions that come with a pandemic, and now, the racial justice movement – especially as the white leader of a team 12