First Year Cleveland

First Year Cleveland

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Biomedical Research Building
11000 Cedar Avenue - 4th Floor Cleveland, OH 44106

Phone 216-368-4837
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FYC Public Policy Advocacy and Engagement: Changing the Laws, One Vote at a Time

FYC Public Policy Advocacy and Engagement: Changing the Laws, One Vote at a Time


If you’ve read about First Year Cleveland’s engagement and public policy efforts, you understand the impact that community residents can have on laws and the effect lawmakers can have on the success or failure of these vitally important collaboratives. Before it can positively impact lower infant deaths for the long term, FYC and its engagement and public policy committee must build public will by engaging stakeholders to take action on a unified strategy to activate policy change.


There are several recent national examples that demonstrate the importance of civic engagement – specifically, the power of uniting, advocating and voting for a cause.

Voting Restoration

In October 2018, the state of Florida passed the Voting Restoration Amendment, which restores the right to vote in state and federal elections for those with past felony convictions. This change will allow more than 1.4 million people, who have completed their entire sentence, including probation and parole, to vote in Florida’s future elections. (This law excludes anyone with convictions for murder or felony sexual offenses.)

“A person’s eligibility to vote should not be left up to politicians and election cycles. Through the hard work of Florida voters and unwavering dedication of a truly grassroots movement, Amendment 4 was placed on the ballot,” says an excerpt from Florida’s official Second Chances website.

Tobacco 21

The Tobacco 21 movement aims to raise the age of tobacco purchase to 21. The movement has seen tremendous success – beginning at the grassroots level – in 22 states including California, Oregon, Maine, New Jersey, Colorado and Ohio. In the absence of federal or statewide laws, there have been local coalitions – led by schools, hospitals, city councils and boards of health – that have worked to enforce change at the community level.

According to a Tobacco 21 success story in Healdsburg, California: “One of the council members said that this is the function of small constituencies, to be catalysts for larger places, to set an example, to be leaders. She was right! Several other communities are now considering similar ordinances.”

Seat Belt Laws

Sometimes, change takes time. For example, while seat belts were required to be installed in all cars starting in 1968, their use was considered voluntary. Advocates for mandatory seat belt use in passenger cars worked for decades to enact widespread legislation. The National Ad Council even got involved, running ads for more than 25 years to encourage citizens to “buckle up.”

Today, wearing seat belts is compulsory for children, drivers and front-seat passengers. But it took the action of citizens and organizations that advocated for seatbelt laws to make huge strides over time, saving countless lives and changing public opinion about a once-maligned topic.


First Year Cleveland will focus its efforts on several key policy areas in the next few years, and staff and stakeholders will work with state and local lawmakers to address issues, including:

  • Expanding Medicaid reimbursements to include services that seek to reduce infant mortality
  • Identifying new or existing billing codes that will cover services impacting infant mortality
  • Requiring the inclusion of social determinants of health – including employment, education, housingandtransportation – in Medicaid and managed care agreements
  • Helping to increase access to transportation for pregnant women and families with children
  • Promoting the need for statewide family and medical leave
  • Improving the quality of stable, affordable housing for pregnant women and families with children
  • Supporting enforcement and expansion of Tobacco 21
  • Supporting reproductive health and justice education in schools and community settings

FYC’s success in achieving these policy goals will be driven by the active engagement of community members and stakeholders. To get involved on a grassroots level — through financial support, donation of time or other supportive resources — and help FYC reduce infant mortality in Cuyahoga County, please click here.

Posted Monday, November 19, 2018

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