Friday, March 2, 2012

MS Activists on the Frontline: Demystifying Advocacy

Lisa Emrich

Individuals, such as you or I, can play vital roles in helping to shape public policy at the local, state and federal levels of government. By becoming MS activists, we can use our voices to raise awareness of the impact MS has on our lives and on the lives of those connected to us. We can let lawmakers know what issues are important to us and ask that sufficient funding be provided in the federal budget to address those issues.

Beginning March 5, 2012, more than 325 MS activists, including those living with MS and those touched by MS, members of Congress who are leaders in the MS Movement, Society advocacy staff and volunteers will convene in Washington D.C. for the 21st annual National MS Society Public Policy Conference: MS Activists On the Frontline

As a patient advocate and first-time conference attendee, I will be blogging from the conference, bringing to you the important issues and personal stories of MS activists whom I’ll meet. At the climax of the conference on Wednesday, I will join activists as we visit federal legislators on Capitol Hill. Although I’ve attended congressional hearings before, this will be a new and exciting experience that I’m thrilled to be sharing with you.
The 21st annual conference will begin with an update on federal issues affecting persons living with MS, then continue with a highlight of successes of the past year, including a Social Security Administration Compassionate Allowance Listing for people with forms of advanced MS. On Monday evening, 2011 Advocacy Hall of Fame inductees will be honored and on Tuesday three elected officials will receive awards for their work for the MS Movement.

On March 6, conference attendees will participate in one of three breakout sessions discussing government relations, the Affordable Care Act, and the use of social media in advocacy. Throughout the day, MS activists will take advantage of Issue Prep Sessions to take their message directly to lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, March 7. This year’s hot topics include a request for reauthorization of the Lifespan Respite Care Program with $5 million funding and requests for increased funding for MS research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP).

Want to become an advocate?

One goal I have in bringing you updates during the conference is to further explore the various ways in which we can become advocates and activists. Each individual voice matters when you speak up and out for what is important to you and to the community.  With combined voices, MS advocates can take action and help to shape health policies that will benefit people living with MS. 

March 5-7, 2012, will be an exciting three days with more than 35 presenters scheduled to speak in at least 15 sessions on the public policy conference agenda. Please stay tuned for more updates as the week unfolds.

Lisa Emrich, a musician living with MS and rheumatoid arthritis, is the founder and editor of the Carnival of MS Bloggers. You can connect with Lisa via her blogs and on Twitter.

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