No matter your schedule or your level of experience with advocacy, there are simple actions you can take on a regular basis to increase access to care, treatments, and research. Before you get started, visit the ACR’s advocacy page at www.rheumatology.org/advocacy. ACR policy statements for 2013, which lay out positions and work plans for the range of issues affecting the rheumatology community, have been approved by the ACR Board of Directors and are available for viewing. Once you know the issue(s) on which you want to weigh in with lawmakers, take one or more of these easy steps:
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- Ask for an in-person meeting: A face-to-face meeting is an easy way to communicate your ideas and build relationships with your lawmakers and their staffs. You may ask for a meeting at the legislator’s office near your home, or join the ACR’s Advocates for Arthritis visit held each September in Washington, D.C. Congress will be out of session and at home March 25 through April 4, so this is the perfect time to schedule a meeting so your elected officials can get to know you and your issues better.
- Invite your lawmaker to tour your office: Most members of Congress are eager to learn more about the care you provide to patients with arthritis and rheumatic conditions, how you provide that care, and the challenges you and your patients face. A visit to your office is a surprisingly simple and very effective way to both educate and connect with your representatives and their staff. The ACR Government Affairs division can assist you with setting up the visit. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or (404) 633-3777.
- Get your patients to weigh in: Patients are constituents, too, and have personal stories that illustrate the issues faced every day in the rheumatology community. Their perspectives often include first-hand experiences with the challenges of accessing rheumatologic care or treatments and highlight the need for more funding for research to keep care breakthroughs advancing. Patients may use any one of these easy options to make a difference, including going with you to meetings at your representatives’ local office, or even going to Washington, D.C. with you for the Advocates for Arthritis conference.
- Call your members of Congress: One of the fastest ways to let your representatives know what issues you care about is to make a call to their local or Washington, D.C., office. You can reach the Washington office by using the AMA’s Grassroots Hotline at (800) 833-6354.
- Send an e-mail with the ACR’s Legislative Action Center: E-mail is a quick and effective way to get specific information and requests to your elected officials. Select one of the issues and prefilled messages on the ACR website, available at www.rheumatology.org/advocacy, and then personalize the text with your own unique information and details. You may have your message(s) automatically delivered to your spokespeople in the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate. Get started now at www.rheumatology.org/advocacy.