New Advocacy Group Wants To Make Colorado Healthier, Starting At The State Capitol

Oct 20, 2014

A new Colorado nonprofit will soon venture into the halls of the state capitol advocating for policy change in health care.

Healthier Colorado officially launched in September, kicking off their efforts with a listening tour of eight Colorado cities.

"We’re Colorado’s first and only health care organization focused primarily on direct policy change," says Jake Williams, Healthier Colorado’s Executive Director.

He acknowledges there are already a number of organizations in the state that advocate for better health care. But he says legal constraints prevent them from focusing specifically on policy change.

"They’re all 501c(3)s for the most part, where we are a 501c(4) – which means that we can do an unlimited amount of lobbying," Williams says. "We can create a constituency for healthcare change, to make sure Coloradans who want a healthier state can have their voices heard by our elected officials."

The three-person organization will work with local government leaders and elected officials to craft legislation.

Their statewide listening tour, which included Greeley, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs, gave the group a list of concerns to focus on.

"The cost of health care is of concern to a variety of individuals and small businesses," Williams says. "We’ve heard a lot about access to healthy food. [And] physical activity and obesity issues have been prominent in conversations we’ve had."

He says the obesity problem might come as a surprise, given Colorado’s reputation as one of the leanest states in the nation. Despite that, Williams notes that roughly one-fourth of Colorado kids are overweight or obese. And the likelihood is more than three times higher for children of Latino families, who make up the fastest-growing segment of the state’s population.

Healthier Colorado's initial focus will likely be on laws that can contain rising health care costs, which are projected to rise faster here than in other states.

"We’re hopeful that through processes like the newly formed healthcare costs commission, which was recently appointed by the state legislature, that we can have a conversation about – and do a deeper dive on – this issue, so we can figure out some common sense ways that we can bring down the cost of health care," Williams says.

He thinks one place to start is ensuring that consumers have more information about price and quality, as well as incentivizing providers to provide quality care, instead of just being paid fees for the services they provide.

"Given how important health care is to our lives, and the connection to public policy in so many ways, it seems appropriate to have an organization to harness those ideas, the energy, the voices of Coloradans, to make sure that it’s heard in the halls of power."