Becky Smith is the policy director of the Maine Public Health Association. Becky has been working for the Maine Public Health Association and the Health Policy Partners of Maine for over 10 years. She first held the position as a program coordinator where she was responsible for media relations and legislative coordination. Later she served as the executive director of HPP. After HPP merged with MPHA, Becky became the chief policy officer for MPHA. She has worked on tobacco control policy and also worked as an aide in the Maine legislature. Becky is attending APHA’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., this week, where she will be presenting at APHA’s Advocacy for Leaders Session on Sunday to discuss MPHA’s public policy efforts.
I am looking forward to attending APHA’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., this week. Annual Meeting provides an unprecedented opportunity to join fellow public health colleagues from across the country in celebrating the year’s successes, sharing local experiences and revving up for new challenges that lie ahead. I am also enthused about sharing Maine’s strategy for successful advocacy efforts this year. In the midst of budget constraints and other attacks to public health that reverberated across the country and in Maine, it was an exhausting but exhilarating legislative year, and we can’t wait to share our experiences at APHA’s Annual Meeting.
Maine is an interesting state. We are old, we are rural (our largest city is less than 70,000), we are not all that wealthy or healthy, but we do amazing things.
The Maine Public Health Association has more than 300 members in every corner of the state. We educate, inform, fundraise and advocate. Even though our resources are quite limited, we took on the challenge of representing Maine’s entire public health community at the state house — and went to work.
Maine has a part-time citizen legislature. During the last election, we had a wholesale shift in power. Our legislature became Republican-controlled for the first time in more than 20 years, and we elected a Republican governor with 39 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Inexperienced policymakers meant that MPHA had a lot of educating to do. With our part-time staff and very hard-working volunteer board, we tracked 70 bills and testified on 40. We were able to lead the effort to restore the governor’s proposed decimation of the state’s public health funding and to beat back rollbacks in our seat belt, toxins and women’s health laws. We forged new alliances and discovered new friends and allies.
Small states like Maine offer real opportunities to make a positive and lasting impact in the lives of those who live there. We’re fired up and ready to go for another successful legislative year.