Recognizing Your Policy Power
Summer Institute faculty member, Patricia Lichiello, speaks about her 20 years of health policy work and why she is excited to help public health practitioners enhance their policy skills.
April 3, 2013
Policy work is not mysterious. It is a common part of daily public health work. These are the thoughts of Patricia Lichiello, MA, Director of the University of Washington's Health Policy Center. Having worked on health policy research, analysis, development, and training for nearly 20 years, Lichiello knows the field. What surprises her is that so many public health workers do not recognize that they do too.
“I want people to recognize that they are powerful and that they can make a difference through policy,” says Lichiello.
With that in mind, Lichiello will be teaching Understanding and Influencing Policy for Public Health at the Summer Institute for Public Health Practice. The course is designed to help public health workers identify policy work and determine where they can use policy to improve community health.
This public health policy advocate laughs when she remembers how she first came to work in the field—by answering an ad in the paper. Like most public health workers, she learned her skills on the job. Although she acknowledges the valuable lessons in learning that way, she does not recommend it.
She explains, “Previously, I had many different jobs—musician, graphic artist, publications manager, urban planner—and when I had to I was always able to learn on the job. When I came to public health policy it was different. I definitely recommend getting some training.”
Lichiello understands that busy public health workers do not have much time for training. But, as hard as it is to leave the office, she encourages them to step back from their daily duties and reflect on their work. She notes, “It’s important to get your mind to work in a different way. You can do that only by taking a break from the routine.”
The three-and-a-half day Summer Institute is also a chance to learn from colleagues around the region. Lichiello says public health workers themselves are part of what has kept her in the field so long. She explains, “People in public health are so passionate about their work and others. Even when they are on opposite sides of an issue they still care about each other.”
Lichiello has seen firsthand the passion people bring to their work. In 2000 she developed the University of Washington’s Safe Table Forums, a series of topic-specific discussion forums for public and private stakeholders across Washington State's health system. Over the years she has facilitated roundtables on health savings accounts, food and fitness in schools, workplace wellness, family planning, and more.
Lichiello brings facilitation techniques from the forums into the classroom to foster peer-to-peer learning. She notes, “I want people to feel comfortable joining in and sharing because the class is better when we all contribute.”
Whether it is policy research, development, or training, Lichiello knows the terrain. Though she came to the field through an unplanned route, she certainly knows how to help public health professionals navigate their own policy path.
Registration for Understanding and Influencing Policy for Public Health is now open. Enroll today to enhance your skills and your policy power.