(1) An Introduction to the World of Public Health

The logo of the National Consumers League

Being a part of the Public Health Policy Team at the National Consumers League (NCL) has categorically been the most rewarding and meaningful experience I have had so far in my professional career. Although I have worked here for only a month, I have helped prepare testimony for a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the ongoing infant formula crisis, staffed events, and written public policy statements. More importantly, I have found invaluable mentors who trust me and my work and are eager to help me learn and succeed.

Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League has long advocated for a fair and transparent market for consumers. NCL focuses on research, advocacy, and education on some of the most pressing issues affecting consumers including fraud prevention, healthcare, food and nutrition, child labor, and workers’ rights. In the past, my experience in the public health arena has been limited, but it has always been a field I have wanted to explore. The issues NCL addresses such as health equity, consumer choice, food and drug safety, and people’s ability to access safe, affordable, and quality healthcare impact the lives of millions of Americans. I have always believed that public policy is a potent mechanism for making positive and impactful changes in people’s lives. NCL’s work reflects my own values, making it an incredible organization for me to contribute to this summer.

The National Consumers League Team present at the HAC Summit.

As a nonpartisan organization, NCL works with nonprofits, grassroots coalitions, congressional staff, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders to fight for consumers and ensure that people are able to receive necessary and sometimes lifesaving health services. NCL’s strategy for meeting these objectives begins with listening and amplifying the voices of underserved communities. From there, the team blocks out targeted and coalition-based approaches to help these people struggling in the U.S. health system. Final steps in this process include communicating the importance of these issues with congressional offices, putting pressure on regulatory agencies such as the FDA and FTC, and outlining health policy needs in collaboration with other groups. 

In my current capacity, the majority of my work centers on drafting policy statements, but I also attend meetings and brief NCL staff on specific issues and the meetings they can not attend. So far this summer, the policy statements I have written cover a range of different health issues such as copay accumulator programs, the monopolistic practices of PBMs, the unfair treatment of pregnant workers, the FDA’s ban on Juul, and the ongoing gun epidemic. I am also working on creating a health equity policy stance/agenda for the NCL website and had the immense privilege of assisting the Director of Health Policy in her testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. This included helping craft her formal statement, opposition research, and strategy recommendations for the Q&A portion of the hearing. 

Looking forward, I want to explore the full scope of public policy advocacy. From learning effective lobbying tactics to the process behind building a coalition of support, these skills will be invaluable to me throughout my future career. As someone new to public health, I also want to develop a more holistic understanding of the industry and how seemingly distinct issues, such as stringent immigration policy and health inequities, can intersect.

From my time at NCL, I have learned that progress can appear in many forms. While usually associated with policy and regulatory changes, increasing awareness, disseminating knowledge, and building coalitions around key issues are also mechanisms that create a base for the implementation of positive change. I am absolutely ecstatic to continue working at NCL and I can only imagine all the new things I will learn in the coming months.