American Hospital Association leaders like to say that every day is advocacy day, and that there is no better advocate for your hospital than you, the hospital trustee.

Successful advocacy translates the needs of your hospital and community into messages policymakers can understand and act on. It strengthens your community by giving voice to the people served by your hospital who lack effective representation — children, the poor, the elderly and others. You are able to paint a vivid picture of the impact that your organization has on the surrounding community and make the theoretical more concrete.

Throughout the year, the AHA calls on hospital leaders to advocate for various issues on Capitol Hill, from protecting patients from cuts in hospital funding to reducing red tape and decreasing the administrative burden on hospitals … and many other issues. As a trustee, you are in the best position to help legislators understand all that your hospital does for the community and the challenges that you face as you strive to continue to deliver those services.

As you think of ways to advocate for your hospital and community, remember that it is important to work with your hospital administrators. Coordinate any contact with legislators to make sure you’re speaking from the same page and not working at cross-purposes, thereby confusing your legislators.

Another way to more actively shape the future of health care is to become involved in the AHA’s policy development process. Consider participating in one of its various committees, which are currently accepting nominations for 2017.

The Committee on Governance, the AHA’s leading trustee involvement group, spearheads grassroots advocacy and provides input into the AHA’s policy development efforts. Members serve three-year terms, are expected to attend three meetings annually, and must be associated with an AHA-member hospital or health system throughout the length of their term.

The regional policy boards serve as one of the primary lines of communication between the AHA and its members. Board members provide input on policy issues and serve as an ad hoc development committee when appropriate. They also help to identify needs and challenges unique to each region and assist in developing solutions.

Interested trustees are invited to view the Invitation for Involvement and submit an application through Feb. 24. For more information, visit www.aha.org/trusteeopportunities or contact Rita Harmata, director of trustee and community leadership, at rharmata@aha.org or (312) 422-3311. 

Margaret Dahl (Margaret.Wagnerdahl@innovate.gatech.edu) is COG chair and a trustee of WellStar Health Network ACO in Marietta, Ga.