Advocacy is an important tool in the fight against cancer. Cancer is not just a medical issue, it is also a public policy issue.
Access to screening and early detection services, clinical trials, health insurance options, appeals, employment rights, disability benefits, medical decision-making, estate planning, consumer rights, and other issues that can come up as a result of a cancer diagnosis are all rooted in laws.
And, laws are passed through the legislative process. When individuals and communities use their voices to share their opinions and experiences to engage in the legislative process, to either support or oppose a legislative issue or a specific piece of legislation (a bill), that is called legislative advocacy. If you need a refresher course on American government, watch this helpful video about how a legislative bill becomes a law. There are many different types of advocacy, which you can learn more about from our Quick Guide to the Spectrum of Advocacy.
Engaging in legislative advocacy doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. Here are some simple things that you can do:
Not sure who your current elected officials are? It’s easy to find them. Visit Common Cause's Find Your Representatives tool and enter your zip code. It will list all of your elected and appointed officials, from the President to your City Council members.
Writing letters: Sending your letter by email or fax is most efficient. Be sure to keep it concise – it should be no more than one page and should focus on one issue. State your purpose in the first paragraph. If your letter pertains to a specific bill, use the bill number and/or name. Try to always be respectful, even if you disagree with your elected official. Request a reply.
Meetings: Contact your elected officials’ office to schedule a meeting at their local office, at the state capitol, or in Washington, DC. If your elected official is not available to meet with you, you can ask to meet with one of their aids who handles the issue area that you are going to talk about. For example, if you want to talk about cancer research funding, then you should meet with the person who handles health issues. During the meeting, make sure to mention that you are a constituent, talk about the issue or specific piece of legislation that is important to you, and share your personal story. After the meeting, follow up with a thank you note and offer them your future assistance.
Sharing Your Story: Sharing your personal story can be a powerful tool. Your story can help elected officials understand an issue. Sometimes, they are looking for a real life, personal story from their own district that shows the need for legislation. That said, we encourage everyone to make conscious disclosure decisions. Read our Quick Guide to Disclosure, Privacy, & Medical Certification Forms.
Another useful way to communicate with your elected officials is through social media
Here are some general tips on using social media for cancer advocacy efforts:
For more information, see our Cancer Advocacy Materials & Resources.
Disclaimer: This handout is intended to provide general information on the topics presented. It is provided with the understanding that Triage Cancer is not engaged in rendering any legal, medical, or professional services by its publication or distribution. Although this content was reviewed by a professional, it should not be used as a substitute for professional services. © Triage Cancer 2021
We're glad you find this resource helpful. Please feel free to share it with your communities or to post a link on your organization's website. However, this content may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Triage Cancer. Please email us at info@TriageCancer.org to request permission.
This Quick Guide can be downloaded and printed for free. If you are a health care professional, we provide free, bulk copies of many of our resources. To make a request, visit TriageCancer.org/MaterialRequest.