I recently had the opportunity to participate in an intensive course on legislative advocacy. The "final exam," appropriately, was a visit to Capitol Hill where I spoke with Congressional staff on Hospice Care issues.
Now I must confess that early on in my career, I thought legislative advocacy was something probably more suited for those who are greater orators than I fancy myself to be. Fortunately, I came to the realization that when the masses speak, the potential for impact is much greater.
I recognize that speaking with our elected officials is probably somewhat out of our comfort zone and something for which we do not receive much, if any, formal training. It is important to remember, though, that our elected officials are working for us, and we as their constituents have a responsibility to make our voices heard. If we do not make our voices heard on important issues, how can we affect positive change?
Legislative advocacy is a key component to removing barriers to our patients’ access to quality cancer care. There are many competing priorities (check out the websites of your members of Congress), so there is no time like the present for us to come together to participate in important policy decisions.
ASCO has many resources
including position statements (helpful for formulating your speaking points) and policy priorities. These resources serve to make the process of legislative advocacy accessible, and the Advocacy Tools
section will take you through the steps of communicating and building relationships with elected officials. Above all, discussions of personal connections to the issue(s) for which you are advocating underscore the importance of your visit or communication.
I hope you will consider participating in legislative advocacy and encourage you to share your experience!