To Move Forward Is To Move Together: Creating Collective Action Through Roundtables

This post was written by Melissa Chacko, Policy Associate, Global Health Council.

The global health advocacy community is diverse and functions as a conglomerate of roundtables, working groups, and coalitions (hereafter referred to as Roundtables). Roundtables can work independently or collectively, bringing advocates and researchers across various sectors together to discuss global health policy issues and to increase U.S. funding for global health accounts. The Roundtables’ impact on global health policy is a culmination of these groups’ work such as sign on letters, meetings on Capitol Hill, advocacy around legislation, and engagement with the administration. For organizations that advocate for U.S. investment in global health, the Roundtables amplify this work, as they provide strategy, build a collective voice, and push for a comprehensive holistic approach to global health delivery and care.

Provides Strategy

Roundtables give organizations the opportunity to share their knowledge with each other. Sharing this knowledge allows organizations to be current and devise collective action.

Aaron Emmel, Manager of Global Health Advocacy Initiatives at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), explained, “Information sharing is essential for roundtables to move forward with advocacy strategies.” Aaron is a member of the Steering Committees for the Noncommunicable Diseases Roundtable and the Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) Roundtable, and the working group for A Global Agenda for Children (early childhood development). AAP also participates in other advocacy groups such as the International Family Planning Coalition; the civil society group organized by Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; the Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) Working Group; and the 1000 Days (nutrition) Working Group.

Aaron elaborated on how sharing knowledge brings different viewpoints to the table. “AAP shares information on pediatric health, from child survival to NCDs and chronic care. Other partners such as maternal health experts including the American College of Gynecologists, share complementary information that helps to tell a fuller story. Together we are able to add to each other’s credibility.”

Lisa Schechtman, Director of Policy and Advocacy, at WaterAid, who sits on the Steering Committee for the MNCH Roundtable and is also the co-chair for WASH Working Group, said, “Sharing information allows roundtables and individual organizations to be strategic and current in advocacy issues that organizations work on.” Lisa continued, “For smaller teams like WaterAid, and [as] one of the few organizations that work in the WASH space, having these spaces allow us to amplify our contribution as few WASH advocates are able to do that.”

Builds a Collective Voice

Roundtables build a collective voice around global health issues, bringing multiple focuses together to create stronger messages to send to Congress and the administration. Aaron emphasized this point, “Diverse voices show consensus around global health issues and allow us to validate programmatic evidence from different perspectives. There is not necessarily a national constituency for global health so it is important that roundtables allow for coordination, for members to come together and present evidence to policy makers and agencies to reinforce global health agendas.”

Lisa reinforced the power of collective voice and that “we are stronger together.” WASH is one example of this. Lisa added, “WASH focuses on the outcomes of providing services and most of these outcomes are linked directly to the goals of the MNCH Roundtable. The MNCH Roundtable helps to provide context to do what we do and MNCH-focused groups can learn from WASH and consider our inputs and strategies. This gives us credibility for the health benefits of WASH and our position in the global health community doing advocacy on WASH.”

Comprehensive Holistic Approach

Roundtables provide a space for points of integration and create holistic approaches to global health agendas. Aaron explained, “For the Reach Every Mother and Child Act (Reach Act), the child survival groups needed buy-in from the maternal health groups to create a strong message to legislators. Bringing diverse voices to policy makers shows that we are united around this issue. For NCDs, we serve as a bridge for maternal and child health; without the NCD voice, global maternal and child health policies and interventions would not necessarily include chronic illness, and without the maternal and child health voice NCD policies have not adequately addressed the unique needs of children and youth.”

On WASH integration, Lisa said, “Integration was the original reason we joined the MNCH Roundtable several years ago. Although members of the Roundtable do WASH service delivery there was almost no health organization working on WASH advocacy. WASH underlies the success of the MNCH and Nutrition community which builds more WASH champions and raises opportunities and issues.” By being a part of the MNCH Roundtable, Lisa said that “WASH is now at the table for the MNCH annual appropriations process.”

Moving Forward

To move global health forward, is to move together. Roundtables allow the global health advocacy community to come together, find areas of integration and collaboration, and build a collective voice. Lisa discussed this benefit and used WASH integration as an example. “Being a member of the Roundtables and of Global Health Council has worked hand in hand.” Lisa emphasized, “Both memberships increase the profile of WASH as a health issue and create new partnerships, in addition to the opportunity to work with Global Health Council staff.”

Looking forward, the global health advocacy community’s collective voice is now more important than ever. Aaron added, “We work in different spaces but we recognize that there is a shared agenda and vision to help and maintain the role of America as a trusted leader and partner for global health issues.”

Global Health Council works with the Roundtables to support information sharing, coordinate advocacy efforts, and be a part of the collective voice of the global health community. If you are interested in attending roundtable meetings or would like to find out more information please email advocacy@globalhealth.org.