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Tennessee Health Care Campaign's Community Media Toolkit

Tennessee Health Care Campaign (THCC) offers a representative example of the adaptation of the MJF’s vision of Toolkits to the realities of a grassroots organization’s mission and needs. A core element ofTHCC’s identity is a commitment to participation of the people most affected by health care policy in the shaping of public policy: “By involving and developing leaders from those most affected by public policy, THCC enables the faces and voices of the disenfranchised to be seen and heard, and helps everyday people to engage in civic participation—often for the first time.”27 This commitment complements the visions of media justice that were circulating at the 2007 Southeast Media Justice Conference.

THCC began in 1989 with a mission to ensure guaranteed affordable choices in health care for everyone. The organization relies on volunteers throughout Tennessee to be the faces and voices of health care advocacy, and the grant from ACF enabled THCC to provide education and training in an area of the state that was key to THCC’s organizing strategy.28 The purpose of the ACF grant, according to Susan McKay, THCC’s communication and development director, was to “change the dynamic of how low-wealth, uninsured people were covered by the local news media. We also wanted to have those impacted by health care policy, especially the uninsured, reclaim their voice by learning how to engage media.” Media justice, McKay explained, “means having ordinary people have a voice in creating and shaping news and information in their communities . . . Part of our mission is about getting those directly impacted by health care policy directly involved in advocating for themselves and within their communities, so our mission and our idea of media justice go hand in hand.”29

Three training components occurred over nearly a year: two workshops on media framing and messaging, followed by six months of monitoring local media to document the presentation of health care (content, points of view, and who spoke), and finally, engaging the media through radio interviews, newspaper stories, and letters to the editor. The foundation laid in 2007—2008 appears to have paid off, as THCC is now deeply engaged in the national health care debate and volunteers remain active in this region of Tennessee. However, McKay noted that one-time funding “makes any significant results hard [to sustain].”30

 
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