'Right to Health' Bootcamp: A student's experience learning health advocacy tactics

By: Shayla Partridge

On the second weekend in October, representatives from many of Harvard’s undergraduate global health and health activism groups – namely the Global Health and AIDS Coalition and Partners in Health Engage – joined with the rest of the Massachusetts community for a ‘Right to Health’ Bootcamp hosted at Lexington High School. The event was organized by a coalition of health advocacy leaders, including affiliates from the Harvard Medicine Indivisible chapter, MassCare, Take Back Health, Public Citizen, Massachusetts Nurses Association, and many more organizations.


A group photo of all participants at the Lexington Right to Health MA Bootcamp.
The day was long and jam-packed but filled with important programming to teach Massachusetts constituents about the value of a single-payer health care system and train them in advocacy tactics for getting their representatives on board with this movement. The purpose of hosting this training now and here in Massachusetts is to build on the momentum and progress this state has already shown in leading healthcare reform, and to encourage our representatives and follow constituents to never stop asking for better, more equal, more just healthcare for all. The power that has been built fighting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act under the current administration has also highlighted the widespread interest and grassroots power to fight for reform and progress in healthcare on a state level, as well as a national level.


Senator Jamie Eldridge
After opening remarks from Senator Jamie Eldridge – the Massachusetts senator who has authored the single-payer bill in this state – we proceeded with a workshop on ‘Values and Narrative’ in which we learned to tell the stories about healthcare that highlight why this issue is important to us. At our small table of seven people we heard the full range of motivations – one’s own chronic illness, a delay in a family member’s care due to insurance bureaucracy and inability to pay, and stories of health disparities and inequality as they’ve touched each person’s life and work.


The second half of the day consisted of strategy planning and legislative target mapping for individual regions, and practicing lobby visits – how to prepare for a legislative visit, how to field questions and make your points persuasive to different positions on the issue, and how to follow up and keep this issue on your representative’s agenda.

Global Health & AIDS Coalition Members at the Right to Health MA Bootcamp.

The day ended with a Call to Action from Representative Mike Connolly who gave an inside perspective on what representatives look for when forming opinions on major policy issues, like whether or not to advocate for single-payer.


After an inspiring day, the Harvard students in attendance met with some of the Bootcamp’s organizers and are planning to host a very similar event on campus sometime later this semester to activate the student network here and join with interested students at other Boston-area universities to build power to fight this fight now, and moving forward. Onwards!