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