Behind the Orange Curtain: Would Your Coalition Pursue Policy Change?

What would your county tobacco coalition do if the health department couldn’t support the work of passing local policies? That’s the situation Orange County finds itself in. The health department has had their hands tied and can’t work on advocating for local policy change. So if the coalition wants to pass any tobacco control policies behind the self proclaimed “Orange Curtain” the coalition needs to take it on by itself. That might sound easy, but the OC tobacco coalition is like all the others around the state — made up of dedicated, hard-working and passionate people… who have other fulltime jobs.

But what inspired me during the strategy session Erin, Jack and I did with the Orange County coalition last week was that the coalition members were willing to start a policy campaign, even without the support the county health department had provided the coalition in years past.  We strategized at their meeting about taking on one policy campaign (while also continuing to support state grantees that were working on policy and developing their coalition social media plan). I was impressed that the OC coalition members were eager and passionate about the policy campaign in Newport Beach and did not shy away.

They are in a tough position, but I have no doubt they’ll pull it off. But think about your coalition. Could your coalition function without your health department leadership? Thinking about this is important. In the Center’s newly updated “Insider vs. Outsider Strategies” document we encourage you to think about the benefits of separating your policy campaign from county public health staff.  It protects the health department staff from any backlash, while also allowing the coalition to take stronger positions on the issues.

So while no one envies the position OC is in, it is definitely worth thinking about whether your coalition could pursue policy change under their conditions. Perhaps we should all become a little more like OC?

-Vanessa Marvin

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