Advocacy is the pursuit of influencing outcomes—including public policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions—that directly affect people’s lives.
—David Cohen, Advocacy for Social Justice, 2001
One of the main responsibilities of a professional organization is advocacy on behalf of its members. This is a responsibility the ACR takes seriously. There has been a concerted effort over the past few years to ramp up our advocacy activities. In that time period, we have expanded our Advocates for Arthritis advocacy day, increased our presence on Capitol Hill, started RheumPAC—the ACR’s Political Action Committee, and increased efforts on keeping members informed of legislative issues that will affect rheumatology. There has also been an added emphasis on providing new ways for members to get involved in advocacy efforts. With a new American president comes a new opportunity for the ACR to advocate for issues of importance to the rheumatology community.
When Barack Obama won the presidential election on Tuesday, November 4, 2008, he stated, “The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term.” President Obama was talking about change in the United States. I like to think that he was referring, at least in part, to change in our healthcare system. The promise of healthcare reform is a large part of the 111th Congress and an important goal for the new administration. As the professional association charged with protecting the interests of rheumatologists, the ACR must seize the opportunity to play an instrumental role in determining the direction of healthcare reform, particularly for chronic diseases in this country.
Obama’s Plans for Healthcare Reform
Healthcare reform was a hot topic during the recent presidential election. Each candidate had his or her own plan as to what healthcare reform would mean for the United States and the role that his or her respective administration would play in making their change a reality. For example, one of President Obama’s key initiatives during his campaign was healthcare for children. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is a program that is continuously running out of funds on the state level and will expire on March 31, 2009. President Obama’s plan is to expand the program to encompass more children for a longer period of time. The ACR is continuously monitoring SCHIP to ensure that pediatric patients with rheumatic diseases have adequate access to the unique expertise of pediatric rheumatologists because we know that such care can make the difference between disability and functionality for these patients.