The RNS Advocates for Change at the Arthritis Foundation’s 2019 Advocacy Summit

An article by Carrie Beach, BSN, RN-BC

The Arthritis Foundation’s 2019 Advocacy Summit is a rigorous two-day conference for people across the country who want to own an important role in the fight against arthritis. The conference consisted of training and learning about key legislative topics to support significant issues affecting the arthritis community’s access to affordable care. Advocates of all ages, backgrounds, and advocacy skill levels—including children and teenagers from all corners of the United States gathered together from March 11-12th in Washington, DC, including the Rheumatology Nurses Society, to attend the Advocacy Summit. We assembled with the sole purpose to voice our personal stories in order to make tangible changes for arthritis communities everywhere. With over 100 new faces in Congress this year, it was a great opportunity to educate lawmakers on the issues that are impacting our patients.

The first day of the Summit was focused on comprehensive advocacy training where participants learned the most effective ways to communicate with our elected officials in order to establish strong relationships. The Arthritis Foundation’s priority issues were presented to advocates: step therapy reform, addressing the nationwide shortage of Pediatric Rheumatologists, establishing a dedicated Arthritis Research program at the Department of Defense (DOD), increase funding for the CDC Arthritis Program in the amount of $5 million (which would bring it to full funding at the $16 million mark and fund 13 more states), and the importance of joining the Congressional Arthritis Caucus. We had the opportunity to hear from Foundation President and CEO Ann M. Palmer, engage in motivational and educational breakout sessions, participate in a Live Yes! Connect Group demonstration, and attend the Excellence in Advocacy Awards Dinner. Toward the end of the first day, attendees felt less nervous and more empowered to meet with members of Congress and make a difference by being the voice for those that could not be present.

On day two, we arrived on the Hill and each advocate was given a schedule of their meetings for the day. Our group, representing Ohio, was scheduled to meet with both Senator Offices and six Representative Offices. Each meeting was a success and a step in the right direction. We met with the staffers who each listened to our requests with a great amount of respect. It was an excellent educational opportunity, especially for rheumatology nurses, to share our experiences and to be the voice of our patients that have been affected by the lack of knowledge and awareness in Congress regarding their diseases state. During the 215 scheduled meetings, different states including Tennessee and California fought for change and will continue influencing our elected officials and breaking down barriers to the care everyone deserves.

The Arthritis Foundation is the Champion of Yes. Leading the fight for the arthritis community, the Arthritis Foundation helps conquer everyday battles through life-changing information and resources, access to optimal care, advancements in science and community connections. Their goal is to chart a winning course, guiding families in developing personalized plans for living a full life – and making each day another stride towards a cure. They also publish Arthritis Today, the award-winning magazine that reaches 4.2 million readers.