By Christine DeCarlo, AACOM Advocacy and Public Affairs Manager
Although we are only halfway through 2020, this has already been a year to remember. The COVID-19 pandemic completely upended life as we knew it, causing schools, workplaces, restaurants, retail, and even the halls of Congress to adopt social distancing policies to help slow the spread of the virus and prevent our hospitals from becoming overrun.
As we all continue to adjust to our new reality by wearing face masks in public, avoiding large crowds, and staying home as much as possible, it’s important that we also adjust our advocacy strategies to ensure that they remain effective and safe.
Continue to Raise Your Voice!
While the pandemic has caused us to stop and slow down in many ways, technology and creativity have allowed us to remain connected, continue working and learning, and find new paths forward. While visiting congressional offices and attending in-person town hall events are off-the-table for now, that doesn’t mean all advocacy must stop. Creativity and technology can also help us find new ways to connect with our lawmakers.
Here are a few tips for getting through to your Members of Congress during this time:
Connect Your Issues to Legislative Priorities
As Congress works to respond to COVID-19, lawmakers are busy prioritizing legislation that will help our country address issues related to the pandemic. Now more than ever, advocates need to be aware of the legislative landscape and help Members of Congress better understand how their issues relate to larger policy goals.
As ED to MED advocates, it’s important to explain how the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Grad PLUS Loan Programs help contribute to a more robust and diverse health care workforce that serves communities in need. Connecting these dots for your policymakers makes it easier for them to become champions for our issues. Learn more about how PSLF and Grad PLUS help address the physician shortage and increase access to health care in underserved communities.
Use Social Media and Humanize Your Message
Advocacy may look different during these unprecedented times, but communicating with elected officials is still possible and important. Our Tweet Your Legislator tool allows you to send a message directly to your Members of Congress telling them how critical the PSLF and Grad PLUS Programs are to your health professions education and communities across the country.
You can also join the collective effort to protect these essential programs by connecting with other advocates and members of the health professions community online. Storytelling is a powerful way to spread this message, and you can do so by using hashtags like #SavePSLF and #SaveGradPLUS and tagging ED to MED on Facebook and Twitter.
To make an even greater impact, work to personalize your posts as much as possible. Humanizing your message by helping lawmakers get to know the people behind the policies is especially important now that we are all spending so much time behind a screen. Communicating the personal stakes faced by you and your future patients will help bring your issues to life.
Your Vote Counts
As we all know, 2020 is an election year. Make sure you exercise your right to vote so that you have a say in the issues and candidates that will shape health care and higher education policies for years to come.
Be sure to check your registration status to make sure you are registered to vote. If you’re not, it’s not too late to register online now. Don’t forget to mark your calendar for details on primary, general, and special elections in your state.
While social distancing policies continue and some of us feel safer limiting exposure to others, you can sign up to get your vote by mail ballot for the upcoming election.
Even though we may not be able to shake hands with our lawmakers or speak face-to-face with our elected officials, we can still work to make sure our advocacy efforts remain strong. If you have more tips on how to successfully advocate during COVID-19, share them with us on social media by tagging ED to MED!