Becoming involved in advocacy is a great way for chronic disease patients to take charge of chronic health conditions and to help others in the process. With the vast array of issues that patients have to deal with, it can be difficult to know where exactly to start. Following are five tips for kick-starting your efforts to get involved.
- Find the broad groups that share your interests: If you have a chronic health condition or chronic disease, there is likely an organization or multiple organizations representing your interests. Most of these groups have websites that can serve as a great jumping off point for an aspiring patient advocate. Through newsletters, blogs, and informational guides, these websites allow patients to quickly familiarize themselves with the broader issues affecting the chronic disease population. Many sites also offer action alerts and petitions where patients can signal their support for or displeasure with a current issue affecting the chronic disease community.
- Volunteer with a local chapter: Advocacy doesn’t only take place online. For many individuals, the joy of being involved in patient advocacy comes from personal involvement through volunteering with others. Many disease groups have local or regional chapters in which patients can become involved in local fundraising drives, awareness campaigns, walks, socials and educational symposiums. Most also offer information on where you can find local support groups to connect with other patients dealing with the same condition.
- Engage in social media: Social media is another great tool for patient advocates. Look on Facebook or Twitter for social media pages for those who are chronically ill. These platforms allow you to stay updated on important issues you might not otherwise be aware of, to connect with other patients to share common experiences and possible solutions to health problems and more. Social media is also a tool to reach outside of the chronic disease community, allowing you to share your experiences and advocacy efforts with your own network of contacts.
- Take advantage of patient activism toolkits: Many chronic disease groups offer patient activism toolkits designed to help patients be the best possible advocates. These kits include guides to writing effective letters to newspapers, contact information for legislators and other decision-makers in your area, as well as ways to sign up for legislative lobbying days at the state and federal level.
- Join the Chronic Disease Coalition: Join the Chronic Disease Coalition to really give your patient advocacy a shot in the arm. We seek to combine the efforts of various chronic disease groups into one united voice that speaks for the rights of all patients. Your membership in the coalition lends invaluable support to that goal. Click here to join the cause.