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Purpose | To integrate content and skills learned in class related to policy engagement to create a letter that could be sent to a legislator

General description | You will pick a health-related problem they are concerned about. You will write a letter that could be sent to a local, state, or federal legislator about this issue. In order to write the letter you will need to do some thinking about issues that you want to see addressed AND do some research to determine (1) who would be the right policymaker to write about for your issue of interest and (2) whether policies already exist on your issue of interest

Related objective | 6


To do

  • Pick a health-related problem you are concerned about or a bill that is going through or has gone thru the state or federal government
    • For your employer’s policies
      • Pay attention to issues in your organization that could be impacted by internal policies — check with someone in your organization (e.g., your unit manager) to see if policies for an issue you’re interested in already exists
    • For local policies
      • Read your local news for current issues impacting your communities — based on those issues, identify what person in government would be appropriate to contact (e.g., mayor, county commissioner, school board member)
      • Check pages for policymakers who would craft or vote on policies related to your issue of interest have your issue of interest listed on their pages
        • e.g., if you are interested in addressing homelessness in your community, you could contact your mayor, city councilperson, the city/county health department, or county elected official, among others
    • For state-wide policies
      • You can check out the  WSNA’s legislative agenda (Links to an external site.) to get ideas of what to write about or to see if your problem of interest aligns with the WSNA’s priorities
      • Washington State Legislature page (Links to an external site.) lets you look at what bills are currently being considered by the Washington State Representatives and Senators, search by topic, and other ways of identifying bills
    • For federal policies
      • The Congressional Bills page (Links to an external site.) gives information about the federal-level bills being considered by the US House of Representatives or US Senate
  • Write a letter that you could send to a local, state, or federal policymaker about your issue of interest
    • Find a person who can act on your issue
      • If you are writing about an issue that is at the federal level (i.e., US-wide), then you would want to write to your US Representative (Links to an external site.) or US Senator (Links to an external site.). You can also write to a person somewhere else in the federal government (Links to an external site.) if their job is relevant to your issue (e.g., the Director of the National Institutes of Health if your issue is about health reserach, the Director of the Environmental Protection Agency if your issue is about the environment)
      • If you are writing about an issue that is at the state level, then you would contact your WA State Representative, WA State Senator (Links to an external site.), or another person in the WA State government (Links to an external site.) (e.g., the Governor, the Attorney General, the WA Department of Health)
      • If you are writing about an issue that is the local level, then you would contact your county or city officials (e.g., Mayor, city council, parks department, sanitation, transportation). You can do a Google search to find the right person or agency.
    • Provide a factual description of the health problem (if writing about a specific piece of legislation, include bill number)
    • Provide a convincing argument about why the legislator should act on the problem. Actions to consider suggesting include
      1. creating new legislation if none exists on your topic
      2. voting a particular way on legislation when a bill about your topic exists
      3. enforcing a law when a bill about your topic has been signed into law
      4. amending an existing law if the current law on your topic is inadequate
    • Describe how the legislator can act on the problem
  • Upload letter to Canvas when completed

If students cannot attend class in-person they must contact the Professor ahead of class and arrange to engage in peer review with another student online. students will revise their letters based on peer-review feedback.


Formatting, organization, and logical flow

  • Here is an example policy letter

    with some annotations about where to get some of the included information.

  • Letters are to be 1-2 pages long (1 preferred)
  • Follow letter writing formatting suggested for writing to a legislator (Links to an external site.)
  • if writing to an elected official include a statement if you are their constituent (meaning that you live in their district and they represent you)
    • this is important information to include — often legislators will not look at or consider opinions from people who aren’t their constituents
  • If writing to state or local agency, include a statement that you live in an area covered by the agency
  • Letter should flow well and have proper grammar and spelling


Because the letter needs to be as realistic as possible, do not include references in the text of the letter. However, you do need to include a list of your sources after the body of the letter. This may be in any format you want, but if you used a web page in your letter, make sure to list the url so the instructor can locate it


To help you write the letter, visit this resources on Writing Letters to Elected Officials