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Back in early September, the Chronic Disease Coalition scheduled an introductory meeting with between me and the office of my congresswoman, Rep. Shontel Brown of Ohio’s 11th district.

Given the lull in state legislative activity, it was the perfect time to set a meeting with my federal representative to simply introduce myself.

We met with Rep. Brown’s staff for roughly 20 minutes. The conversation ranged from my experience with kidney disease to how she could support others like me in our district. My request for her was to support the federal Living Donor Protection Act, which provides workplace protections and anti-discrimination requirements in insurance coverage.

We found out this month that Rep. Brown has signed on to that legislation as a cosponsor. She and her staff clearly listened to my story. This is how advocacy is supposed to work! Given this successful experience, I have some tips on how to replicate this success on other issues important to the chronic disease community.

  1. Just reach out. As a constituent, you have a right to be heard. Send an email to your congressional staff and ask for a quick meeting. If you don’t know who to reach out to, or what to say in your request, contact the Chronic Disease Coalition.
  2. Come prepared. Know what elements of your story you want to share and know if there’s legislation that could improve outcomes for patients like you. You can work with the Chronic Disease Coalition on some talking points, if it’s helpful.
  3. Make the ask and follow up. Once you’ve identified legislation that you want your representative to support, just ask them what they think about it. It’s their job to listen to you. Once you make the ask, be sure to follow up with their staff a few weeks later to see if they’ve had more time to think about it.

Advocacy doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating. I hope you’ll join me and connect with your representatives soon. If we want them to support legislation that we care about, they need to hear our stories.