Why I Want to be a Health Activist

On Tuesday night, I attended my first session of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation’s Jonas Salk Health Activist Fellowship – you can read more about it here. The program runs through November, and during that time, the fellows will each (or in small teams) put together activism/advocacy campaigns for a cause of their choice. I will be working on disability access in Pittsburgh, and will hopefully be able to begin a campaign to both improve access, and also spread the word about H.R. 620 (read my thoughts about it here) so that access doesn’t get any worse.

I haven’t always been this involved in disability activism and advocacy. I’ve spent much of my life trying to focus on my similarities to other people, which I don’t regret at all. I have a lot of interests, and haven’t wanted to pigeon-hole myself into only being active in disability related causes – I absolutely think of myself as being more than just my disability! But I’ve come to realize recently, partly because of the fraught political climate, and partly because of my master’s program in Health Policy and Management,  the importance of having a say in things that have the potential to affect my life.

When Emma Watson gave a speech at the United Nations, she quoted a Jewish rabbi, saying “If not me, who? If not now, when?” and this really encapsulates my recent involvement. I’m realizing that if I don’t speak up and get involved, there is no guarantee that anyone else will do it for me. And really, who better to advocate for my needs than me?

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