While each community is distinct, Covering Kids & Families grantees conducting outreach in AI/AN communities have shared several messaging tactics they found to be widely effective. These include:
Focus on the tradition of healthy children.
Messages should reflect a rich sense of AI/AN traditions and strong, healthy families. It is important to invoke feelings of hope, rather than generating feelings of anger toward government or other institutions, or about tribal poverty. Messages that focus on the individual rather than the family are significantly less effective.
Emphasize respect for the wisdom of elders.
Trust in and respect for elders are universally shared values in AI/AN communities across the continent. By using multigenerational approaches (e.g., photos of grandparents caring for grandchildren, tribal elders as spokespersons, etc.), you can make tremendous gains building community interest and trust in your work.
Localize messages to create a strong connection.
Because vast differences exist among AI/AN communities across the country, it is important to tailor messages to address the specific concerns of each community. For example, if many children in a tribal community suffer from poor eyesight, messages on outreach materials might emphasize new eyeglasses as a benefit of enrolling in Medicaid or SCHIP. Localizing messages shows communities that they can trust you to understand their needs and demonstrates how this program directly affects the health of children.
Demonstrate how enrollment benefits everyone.
By showing how enrollment in these programs can directly benefit the health of the entire community, you can tap into parents' desire to better their community. Emphasize that enrollment in Medicaid or SCHIP offers supplemental coverage for services provided by I/T/U facilities and increases the funding that these clinics receive from the federal government. Try to get concrete examples from the clinics themselves. What will the Medicaid and SCHIP reimbursements for a baby's first two years of well-child visits pay for? Could the purchase of new equipment or delivery of additional services be attributed to these reimbursements?
Meet confusion head-on.
Another common misperception is that using Medicaid and SCHIP services absolves the federal government of its trust responsibility to provide health care to AI/AN communities. Make it clear that by enrolling children in Medicaid or SCHIP, parents do not absolve the federal government of its obligation. The services provided to the community may be expanded through these additional funds.
Calm concerns regarding health care provider choices.
Many parents do not realize that they can select their own health care provider as a Medicaid or SCHIP enrollee. Effective messages might appeal to a sense of parental pride and power by emphasizing that families can choose their own provider, including their current doctor at I/T/U clinics. Find out which health care providers in your area accept Medicaid and SCHIP. Do not over-promote this option if there are few convenient providers.
Stress that working families and teenagers are eligible.
Many working parents mistakenly think that these programs are strictly for the unemployed. However, a family of four earning up to $40,000 a year may be likely eligible. Also emphasize that Medicaid and SCHIP coverage is available to children of all ages, including teenagers. This addresses the misperception that the program is only for young children. For eligibility requirements for Medicaid and SCHIP in your state, visit the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at www.cms.hhs.gov.
Promote success stories.
Whether it is the ease of the application process, the efforts of a dedicated provider, or a child's health problems (and a family's financial crisis) averted through routine preventive care, sharing experiences is a wonderful way to add a human face to the issue of health care coverage. A success story is a valuable outreach tool. It can be used as the focus of a newsletter article, a way to expand a story or a method for gaining media attention. Download the Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Action Kit for more tips on working with and selecting families to tell their stories.
Emphasize the urgent need for coverage.
Emphasize the urgent need for these programs in the community by using national and local statistics on uninsured children (see the fact sheet in the Introduction section.) Numbers often speak volumes and can motivate people to action. Explain the need and availability of preventive care. If families understand that Medicaid and SCHIP provide access to annual checkups, and that these checkups can greatly reduce the risk of serious illness, the likelihood that they will enroll their children in Medicaid or SCHIP increases.