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Be an Advocate

Categories: Living with Brain Injury, Public Policy

By Will Dane, Public Affairs Manager, Brain Injury Association of America

Politics is everywhere these days – on every T.V. channel, social media feed, radio station, newspaper, and t-shirt. In January, a New York Times poll found more than eight in 10 Americans expressed “significant disgust” with the state of American politics.

Luckily for us, there is a distinct difference between politics and advocacy. Politics are the activities undertaken to influence the way a country is governed, whereas advocacy is the process of supporting a particular principle, policy, or plan of action to address specific needs.

Advocacy is essential to creating effective policies at the local, state, and federal levels. The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) and its affiliates rely on advocates to advance policies that improve awareness, prevention, research, healthcare, and civil rights for individuals with brain injury. For example, it was through the efforts of grassroots advocates that the Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 1996 was enacted more than 20 years ago. With changes or perhaps even repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) looming, it is especially important for advocates to educate and inform policymakers at every level of government.

What Can Advocates Do?

  1. Get involved. No matter the state you call home, there are opportunities to improve or advance some aspect of care, support, and services related to brain injury. Subscribe to BIAA’s Policy Corner, reach out to your state affiliate, or speak with health and disability advocates in your community to discover opportunities for change. If your state has a brain injury advisory council, reach out to its members and ask if there are ways you can be involved.
  2. Find out who represents you. Elected officials represent you and make important decisions on your behalf every day. You can find your lawmakers by clicking here.
  3. Speak to policymakers. Take the time to reach out and communicate with those representing you at the local, state, and federal levels. Let them know about your connection to brain injury and describe your own experience with treatment and access to care, availability of resources and supports, and effectiveness of long-term services that are available to you. BIAA provides legislative issue briefs for advocating at the federal level.
  4. Seek opportunities to increase awareness. During Brain Injury Awareness Month (in March) and throughout the year, look for ways to raise awareness of brain injury. For example, request your favorite radio station share a public service announcement (PSA) or engage with BIAA on social media.
  5. Share your story. As a person with a brain injury or someone who has experience with brain injury, sharing your personal story is the best way to provide a meaningful impact when expressing your position. You can share your story on BIAA’s website or by commenting when media outlets publish stories about brain injury.
  6. Stay engaged. Advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. Individuals who live with brain injury are effective advocates, but family members and care providers are also knowledgeable and can attest to the consequences of brain injuries and the needs of individuals who sustain them. Together, the community can bring about positive change for coverage of brain injury and related services.
  7. Always remember… There is strength in numbers, and every person has something to offer.

This article originally appeared in Volume 11, Issue 1 of THE Challenge! published in 2017.


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