Today, Allies for Children Health Policy Director Erika Fricke announced she would be leaving the organization to join the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus to work on behalf of policy initiatives that strengthen the health and wellbeing of Pennsylvania families, work she championed at Allies for Children.
Since 2014, Fricke has served as the health policy director at Allies for Children, designing the health policy agenda from the ground up and establishing the reputation of Allies for Children as a respected, evidence-based policy organization that works on behalf of its sole stakeholders: children.
While I’m sad to be leaving, I feel confident that Allies for Children is on good footing as a respected voice for children in our community and a recognized leader on children’s issues. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Allies for Children and build out the health policy component of its work. ~Erika Fricke, health policy director
Erika’s strong policy leadership has led to important victories for children. She has truly worked each day to keep the needs and interests of children at the forefront of important health policy discussions. I know Erika will carry her strong voice for and commitment to children into her new role. ~Patrick Dowd, executive director
Fricke joined Allies for Children just as the organization and its partners launched a campaign to raise the profile of children’s health insurance and enroll children and families in Medicaid and CHIP. In addition to a successful enrollment effort, this campaign engaged elected leaders as active spokespersons promoting a culture of coverage, a concept that has only gained in importance during recent health care debates.
Reacting to federal threats to children’s healthcare access, Fricke initiated a regional coalition to preserve CHIP and Medicaid. The coalition, which continues to work in concert with state and federal advocacy efforts, has engaged local leaders from across Southwestern Pennsylvania, educating them and the public on the importance of Medicaid for children and engaging them in the on-going national conversation.
In response to local legislation designed to contain e-cigarette smoking to places where cigarettes can be smoked, Fricke pulled together stakeholders to advocate for the change, an important step in combatting the increasing number of youth e-cigarette smokers. Although controversial, the debate focused on the needs of children, and the ordinance, which passed, reflects best practice to combat the rapidly growing number of youth e-cigarette smokers.
Allies for Children also supported Allegheny County Health Department’s universal blood lead level screening ordinance. This diverse coalition engaged with County Council, which passed the ordinance. Recently, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald named Dowd to his Lead Task Force, and Allies for Children has supported the policy work of that group.
In 2015, Fricke launched Allies for Children’s school breakfast initiative, an effort to elevate the importance of school meals, especially breakfast, in the daily lives of students. These efforts were validated when Governor Tom Wolf and the General Assembly set aside $2 million in support of improving breakfast participation. In 2016, Allies for Children published one of the first school breakfast reports in Pennsylvania. Data shows that while the commonwealth exhibits low student participation in school breakfast, policy changes can significantly increase access. To date, Allies for Children has engaged with one-third of Allegheny County school districts to change policies.
During her time at Allies for Children, Fricke also participated in the first class of the Child Health Leaders Network, a fellowship jointly sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies.
Improving the health and well-being of children is central to our mission. Allies for Children is well-positioned to build on the health work Erika initiated and lead our region in making certain that children have the ability to grow and thrive. ~Patrick Dowd, executive director